President Daniel Ortega’s government has released almost all political prisoners held since Nicaragua’s April 2018 uprising. It should stay this course, honouring its other commitments to the opposition in national dialogue. International actors should promise consequences if the government drags its feet.
Political tensions continued as govt alternated between adopting conciliatory measures and repressing opposition. Govt 8 June passed amnesty law for political and other crimes related to 2018 uprisings; opposition criticised law for reportedly ensuring immunity for police and para-police units accused of rights abuses. Govt continued to release political prisoners with 106 freed 11-12 June, including main protest leaders. Deadline for release of all political prisoners, agreed in March between govt and opposition, passed 18 June; opposition Civic Alliance insisted over 80 still jailed but govt declared it had fully complied and did not have to release more prisoners; opposition 18-19 June staged minor protests in Managua and promised further protests. Govt continued repression of opposition, including harassment of released prisoners, such as activist Irlanda Jerez, leading some to flee country. Pro-govt groups and police attacked groups celebrating political prisoners’ release in León 15 June and Managua 16 June; media reported some of those celebrating injured and others detained. International pressure on govt continued; U.S. State Department 12 June reiterated call for investigation into 2018 unrest, objecting to amnesty law. Organization of American States General Assembly 26-28 June passed resolution creating commission to conduct high-level diplomacy to seek solution to crisis and to produce report on state of Nicaraguan democracy. Amid continuing economic deterioration, U.S. and Canada 21 June announced new sanctions against several officials including Gustavo Porras, National Assembly head.
Public resentment is high in Nicaragua after street protests in April were crushed in a brutal government crackdown. To prevent further unrest, President Ortega should implement agreed electoral reforms while international actors maintain diplomatic pressure to create conditions for dialogue.