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OAS Seeks to Activate Democratic Charter on Nicaragua

Nicaraguan expats living in Costa Rica hold pictures of people killed in riots or imprisoned as they take part in the "Caravan for Liberty and Justice" to protest against the government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, in La Cruz, Costa Rica, on the

Costa Rica said Saturday it has received a request from the head of the Organization of American States to activate a process of invoking the Inter-American Democratic Charter against Nicaragua amid alleged abuses in the country.

Costa Rica's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the charter's Article 20 may be activated when a member state produces an alteration in the constitutional order that seriously harms democratic order, and any nation or the OAS' secretary-general may call for an immediate convening of the body's Permanent Council.

Costa Rica currently occupies the presidency of the Permanent Council, with El Salvador to take over Jan. 1. The Foreign Ministry said the request from Secretary-General Luis Almagro had been circulated among member nations.

Invoking the charter could lead to sanctions against Nicaragua or its suspension from the hemispheric bloc, though it is not clear whether the required 24 of 34 member nations would support that.

The Central American nation has been mired in a political crisis since protests broke out in April demanding President Daniel Ortega leave office. More than 320 people were killed, and independent rights groups accuse the government and allied, armed civilian groups of violently cracking down on demonstrations and persecuting opponents. Ortega alleges that the protests amounted to an attempted coup against him.

This month the Nicaraguan government shut down prominent non-governmental organizations and news outlets and expelled international monitors documenting alleged rights abuses.