Nicaraguan ambassador to OAS: ‘free’ after castigating government

NEW YORK (AP) — Nicaragua’s ambassador to the Organization of American States said he’s felt a “heavy weight in his heart” over the past two weeks.

He said he lifted it on Wednesday when he denounced his own government as a “dictatorship” breaking away from the administration of President Daniel Ortega.

“I feel free. I feel like I can look my daughter in the eye. I can look myself in the mirror,” Arturo McFields said Thursday in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

The day before, the Nicaraguan official asked for a point of order during an OAS online meeting to discuss unrelated matters and began speaking on behalf of “more than 177 political prisoners and more than 350 people who have lost their lives in my country since 2018.”

“Denouncing the dictatorship of my country is not easy but to be silent and defend what is indefensible is impossible,” said McFields, who until now had defended Ortega’s government when criticized by members of the OAS.

His speech was quickly broadcast on social networks. Ortega’s government released a statement saying McFields “does not represent us, so none of his statements are valid.” On Thursday, the Nicaraguan government said his appointment was “no longer in effect”.

Ortega was elected to a fourth consecutive term in a November 7 election that was widely criticized as a farce. Seven likely Ortega challengers were arrested and jailed in the months leading up to the election.

The OAS General Assembly had voted to condemn the elections, saying they “were not free, fair or transparent and lacked democratic legitimacy”.

McFields, who is 46 and has lived in Washington DC since 2011, said Thursday he had not told anyone what he was about to do except his wife.

The Nicaraguan official said around 2018, when Nicaragua was rocked by protests, he began to think his government could do things differently. At that time, however, he was press secretary at the Nicaraguan embassy in Washington, he said.

Last fall, he says, he proposed to his government to release sick or elderly political prisoners. He was told that would not even be considered, he said.

The “last straw” was the case of Tamara Davila, he said. Davila is a Nicaraguan activist who has been in prison for nine months, “unable to hug his 5-year-old daughter”. McFields has a 5-year-old daughter himself, so he felt “moved” by her case.

“It broke me,” he said. “I started crying.”

Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada announced in November that the Central American nation would withdraw from the OAS, complaining of its “repeated acts of interference” in Nicaragua.

McFields, the first Afro-Nicaraguan to represent his country before the OAS, is a former journalist. He did not say whether he had sought asylum in the United States, but he said the Ecuadorian government offered him asylum yesterday and he was considering all his options with his family.

He also has a message for current Ortega officials.

“Don’t lose your fear and don’t lose your hope. Speak because you disagree. You are tired,” he said. “There is a fatigue, a deep sadness. There are officials leaving (from the government) but they leave silently.

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