EFENew York

The former president of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla, said here Friday that the failure of Latin American governments to speak with one voice about the dangerous developments in Nicaragua displays an absence of unity in the region.

"We are only six weeks away from the consolidation of a North Korea-style dictatorship in the heart of the Americas, in Nicaragua," she said during the Global Forum on Latin America and the Caribbean in New York.

The forum is organized by the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development, whose founder and director is former Dominican President Leonel Fernandez.

Chinchilla was referring to Nicaragua's Nov. 7 elections, in which President Daniel Ortega, who has governed the Central American nation since 2007, is seeking another term with a number of potential opponents in custody or barred from the contest.

She noted that the entrenchment of "dictatorship" in Nicaragua is taking place "in broad daylight" and as the Organization of American States (OAS) marks 20 years since the ratification of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

The document was approved during an OAS assembly in Lima on Sept. 11, 2001.

Nicaragua was one of several issues Chinchilla cited in a speech on the need for solidarity and regional cooperation.

"We are becoming less and less important in so many areas at the international level, we are becoming more and more irrelevant. It seems to me that this confirms that we are becoming less and less important in terms of our contribution to the global economy," she said, adding that the same applies to the region's political role.

What is happening now in Latin America "is nothing more than a mere reflection of the enormous difficulties to act collectively because collectively we are insignificant," Chinchilla said.

Previous speakers at the two-day event, including Fernandez and Chilean former President Ricardo Lagos, likewise lamented the lack of unity in the region.

The first day of the forum, at the Union League Club in Manhattan, featured discussion about the threat to democracy in the region from the emergence of populist and autocratic governments.

Daniel Zovatto, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean for the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, said that the region is going through a time of profound political changes marked in some countries by democratic erosion.