OAS calls Nicaragua to release jailed protesters by June 18

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Organization of American States called Tuesday on Nicaragua to unconditionally release all prisoners related to anti-government protests that started last year.

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Twenty of the 34 member states in the hemispheric body voted in favor of a resolution that urges all prisoners to be liberated by June 18th, as agreed during talks held by the government of Daniel Ortega and the opposition since February.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname joined Nicaragua for the only three votes against the measure, while 10 countries abstained.

Nicaragua's deputy foreign minister, Valdrack Jaentschke, said his government so far has released 336 prisoners —including 100 released Monday to a form of house arrest— while 132 people remain in jail.

"All will be released by June 18th," Jaentschke said.

The resolution calls for raising the Nicaraguan crisis to the attention of the foreign ministers of the continent who will be attending the OAS General Assembly on June 26-28 in Medellin, Colombia.

In January, OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro invoked a section of the organization's charter that could lead to its Permanent Council taking diplomatic measures to restore democracy.

If those measures fail to put an end to the conflict, the process could lead to suspension of the country from the OAS if 24 countries agree.

The measure adopted Tuesday and sponsored by Canada also calls on Managua to start adopting measures to ensure elections in accordance with international standards, to stop arbitrary detentions and guarantee the work of human rights defenders and organizations.

The opposition announced Monday it was withdrawing from talks with the government to press for the release of protesters still in jail and a revocation of charges against them.

The Central American nation has been rocked by a political crisis since protests against social security reforms began in April 2018 and then grew in scope to demand Ortega's exit from office and early elections.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights says a crackdown that followed left 325 people killed, at least 2,000 wounded and pushed 52,000 out of the country.

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Luis Alonso Lugo on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/luisalonsolugo