OAS peace mission to Nicaragua says denied entry by Ortega government

MANAGUA (Reuters) - A commission from the Organization of American States seeking to help broker an end to a political crisis in Nicaragua said on Sunday the government of President Daniel Ortega had barred its entry into the Central American country.

FILE PHOTO - Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega speaks to supporters during an event celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution, at Juan Pablo II square in Managua, Nicaragua July 19, 2019. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas

In a statement, the OAS said the delegation made up of representatives from the United States, Canada, Argentina, Paraguay and Jamaica had been informed by Nicaragua’s migration authorities that it would not be allowed into the country.

Nicaragua has been gripped by its worst political crisis since demonstrations broke out against the Ortega government in April 2018 over planned cuts to welfare benefits.

The demonstrations spread into broader protests against Ortega, and subsequent clashes between pro-government forces and protesters have claimed more than 300 lives and prompted thousands of Nicaraguans to go into exile, rights groups say.

Critics, including human rights groups, criticized Ortega for the severity with which the demonstrations were put down.

Ortega, a former Marxist guerilla, described the protests as an illegal plot by adversaries to oust him.

The OAS commission was due to spend Sept. 16-17 in Nicaragua in order to “take diplomatic steps at the highest level to seek a pacific solution” to the crisis in the country, it said.

Nicaragua’s government did not respond to requests by Reuters for comment.

The OAS created the commission on Aug. 30 and tasked it with reporting back on the situation in Nicaragua within 75 days.

The Nicaraguan government had previously dismissed the creation of the commission, viewing it as an attempt to interfere in the country’s affairs.

The commission said it would proceed with its work.

Reporting by Ismael Lopez; Editing by Sandra Maler