"How many people have to die before it's a matter of peace and security?" US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley asked Tuesday as she pushed for a meeting on Nicaragua, amid open division among diplomats regarding the need for a session.
Haley, who is United Nations Security Council president for this month, used her powers to schedule the meeting for Wednesday morning.
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In an open session of the Security Council on Tuesday, five countries opposed openly having a meeting on Nicaragua, saying the developments in the country did not rise to the level of a threat to international peace and security. The mission of the council is to defend that peace and security.
But Haley kept pressing, saying, "We don't want another Syria, another Venezuela." She said it's the responsibility of the Security Council to act.
In just over four months, at least 322 people have been killed, thousands injured, and hundreds detained as waves of anti-government protests and ensuing crackdowns have swept Nicaragua, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The official government death toll during the same period stands at 198.
Last week Nicaragua ordered a team of UN human rights experts to leave the country, which they did on September 1, according to a UN spokesman.
Human Rights Watch had urged the Security Council to call for the government of Nicaragua, led by President Daniel Ortega, a former revolutionary whose Sandinista rebels overthrew Nicaraguan strongman Anastasio Somoza in the 1970s, to end a crackdown on protesters and to dismantle armed gangs favoring the government. It is unclear if the council will be able to attain enough unity to produce a statement after the 10 a.m. session Wednesday.
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 Hemipshere.
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.