A first-ever meeting on Nicaragua by the UN Security Council featured big-power old rivals once again battling it out on familiar issues.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley, the current council president, overcame objections by several countries to even formally hold the public session on Wednesday.
The United States, United Kingdom, France and others denounced Nicaragua’s government for human rights violations, while Russia, China and Bolivia said the Nicaragua issue should not be part of the Security Council’s agenda, because it doesn’t, in their opinion, threaten international peace and security, the bedrock of council activities.
Russia said there had been “subversive policies” and interventions in Nicaragua over a long period by the United States.
Without naming Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Haley said the Nicaraguan people “are calling for an end to a dictatorship. They are calling for their own freedom.”
She told reporters she felt the meeting, which produced no statement or agreement, was important to hold.
Haley said, “With each passing day Nicaragua travels further down a familiar path. It is a path that Syria has taken. It is a path that Venezuela has taken.”
Nicaragua’s foreign minister also challenged the United States. Denis Moncada Colindres said “There is consensus in this Security Council that Nicaragua does not represent a threat to international peace and security. Therefore, its inclusion in this meeting is a clear interference in the internal affairs of Nicaragua, and a violation of the Charter of the United Nations and International Law.”
Haley got support from the leader of the Organization of American States and a Nicaragua civil society member who said the country was now a “time bomb.”
The OAS recently passed a resolution condemning the Nicaraguan government for human rights violations.
Human Rights Watch had urged the Security Council to call for the government of Nicaragua to end a crackdown on protesters and to dismantle armed gangs favoring the government.
Anti-government protests in Nicaragua began this spring with people frustrated over the government’s response to a devastating wildfire in an area of protected tropical rain forest. Unrest spread and tensions worsened after a government decision in April to change the country’s social security system. The changes increased contributions by workers and employers but reduced pensions for retired workers in the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
The government subsequently reversed the social security change, but the people continued to march, with authorities moving to stem the protests and violence escalating. At least 10 people were killed in the first few days of unrest.
Demonstrations by citizens, crackdowns by the country’s National Police and armed paramilitary groups, and violence have marked the weeks since.
At the meeting Wednesday, Bolivia’s UN ambassador said he condemns any type of regime change by outside forces intending to control natural resources.
The Bolivian diplomat criticized the role of the United States in Latin American history, invoking the Iran Contra affair at one point.
Haley hit a rare note of sarcasm for the council table when he concluded, saying, “Thank you for that lovely statement.”
CNN’s Natalie Gallón contributed to this report.