In late 2021, three decades after the end of Nicaragua’s civil war, the government cracked down harshly on opposition parties and staged a rigged election that confirmed President Daniel Ortega’s intention to establish a dynastic authoritarian regime. Thousands have fled the country since 2018, when a mass uprising spurred by an unpopular reform to the social security system was met with state violence, resulting in hundreds of deaths. Through its fieldwork and advocacy, Crisis Group seeks to contribute to a negotiated exit from the crisis and prevent further bloodshed.

CrisisWatch Nicaragua

Unchanged Situation

Silencing of civil society, political figures and religious groups continued; U.S. announced more sanctions on regime and affiliated companies.

Crackdown on dissent continued as authorities targeted Ortega’s brother. Retired general Humberto Ortega, President Ortega’s brother, 19 May called Ortega’s rule “dictatorial” during interview with news outlet Infobae; police same day reportedly surrounded his house and confiscated his devices, 21 May announced instalment of medical unit, in move critics say amounts to house arrest. Meanwhile, repression of civil society and religious freedom continued. According to U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s annual report published 1 May, Nicaragua was one of seventeen countries designated as “of particular concern” due to “severe violations of religious freedom”. Ortega regime 2 May closed fifteen NGOs, including four affiliated with evangelical church, 21 May disbanded fifteen more; govt 13, 24 May prohibited public processions in honour of Catholic saints. 

U.S. imposed new sanctions. U.S. 15 May introduced new sanctions against regime and affiliated companies for human rights abuses and complicity in migrant smuggling. It imposed visa restrictions on over 250 govt members for “supporting attacks on human rights”, and sanctioned two mining companies and Russian-operated military training centre in capital Managua, which it said has helped govt crackdown on civil society. U.S. Departments of State, Homeland Security and Treasury 15 May issued international alert to airlines and charter flight companies, warning about exploitation of transportation services by migrant trafficking networks. 

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In The News

14 Feb 2023
[Nicaraguan President Ortega] would prefer to revert to a steady, low-level authoritarian government in which there are perhaps none of the more visible forms of abuses b... Los Angeles Times

Ivan Briscoe

Senior Director for Policy

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