Nicaragua leaves Organization of American States in ‘step away from democracy,’ U.S. says

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega shaking hands with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega shakes hands with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel at an international gathering in Havana in September.
(Ramon Espinosa / Associated Press)

The U.S. State Department called Nicaragua’s formal withdrawal from the Organization of American States on Sunday “another step away from democracy.”

The OAS has long criticized rights violations under Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, who has rejected those criticisms. In November 2021, Ortega, who governs alongside his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, initiated the two-year process for Nicaragua to leave the OAS.

“The Ortega/Murillo regime’s withdrawal from the OAS is another step away from democracy and further isolates Nicaragua from the international community,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller wrote on X, formerly known Twitter.


Neither Ortega’s office nor the Nicaraguan government commented Sunday.

The OAS has said it would continue closely monitoring Nicaragua’s democracy and human rights record even after the country’s exit from the group, to which it has belonged since 1950.

According to a resolution approved by the OAS permanent council earlier this month, the OAS “will continue paying special attention to the situation in Nicaragua” and will try to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms there.

Nicaragua’s government has declared the Jesuit religious order illegal, claiming it failed to comply with tax reporting.

Aug. 23, 2023

Arturo McFields, Nicaragua’s representative at the OAS until he publicly denounced Ortega and Murillo in 2022, said earlier this month that Nicaragua’s withdrawal would be “a heavy blow to the fight for democracy and defense of human rights.” But he was encouraged by the OAS resolution.

Ortega’s administration has sought to suppress critical voices since popular street protests in April 2018 turned into a referendum on his government. After the protests were violently put down, with some 355 people killed and hundreds imprisoned, the government set about silencing institutions that Ortega perceived as supporting the protesters.

Targets have included private universities, the Roman Catholic Church, civil society organizations and tens of thousands of individuals driven into exile.


Ortega’s government started the two-year process to leave the OAS shortly after the organization joined others in the international community in condemning the elections, widely criticized as flawed, that led to Ortega’s latest term.

The last country to leave the OAS was Venezuela in 2019.