OAS: who’s on first?

OAS country representative Ricardo Seitenfus gets called on the carpet after his first day on the job in Nicaragua

(posted Feb. 2, 9:50 a.m.)- For the second time in less than three months, José Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), had to issue a clarification on the hemispheric organization’s position on Nicaragua’s elections last November.

Insulza’s most recent elucidation came in response to comments made Tuesday in Managua by Ricardo Seitenfus, the OAS’ new country representative to Nicaragua, who said President Daniel Ortega won the election based on the OAS’s parallel fast count.

Insulza quickly responded from Washington, saying, “The Report of the Electoral Observation Mission, presented to the OAS Permanent Council on January 24, is the only official opinion of the General Secretariat about the election in Nicaragua.”

Insulza said Seitenfus’ comments were “a personal verbal opinion” that “in no capacity whatsoever substitutes or replaces that of the formal mission which observed the development of the whole process and emitted its conclusions with all of its antecedents in a well-founded and complete manner.”

Insulza added, “The OAS never provides results or conclusions based on partial reports or quick counts, nor does it authorize any such distribution.”

“The opinions given by other individuals on their own behalves do not alter this reality,” Insulza insisted.

This is not the first time the OAS has talked out of both sides of its mouth regarding Nicaragua’s elections.

On Nov. 9, two days after Ortega won reelection, the OAS secretary general had to make his first clarification after the Sandinista press reported that Insulza himself told Ortega in a congratulatory phone call that “Democracy and peace advanced in Nicaragua yesterday.”

Insulza later told Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer that the comment was “an error” and “an interpretation of something that was said during my conversation with Ortega.”

The Sandinista media, however, was already celebrating too loudly to hear Insulza’s retraction.

The OAS’ repeated doubletalk on the Nicaragua election has provided “A-ha!” moments for both the Sandinistas and their opponents to justify their predetermined conclusions about Ortega’s reelection.