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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

Amid ongoing stifling of dissent widely condemned internationally, President Ortega sought rapprochement with China and Russia. After Episcopal Conference in late Nov offered to mediate possible dialogue between govt and opposition, Auxiliary Bishop of Managua, Silvio José Báez (who went into exile in 2019), 5 Dec said “it is impossible to dialogue without re-establishing civil liberties”. Over 35 representatives of opposition and civil society organisations exiled in Costa Rica 7 Dec said conditions for dialogue with Ortega’s “illegitimate” govt not met. Meanwhile, authorities 13-14 Dec shut down 11 NGOs. As Ortega’s govt faced increasing international isolation, delegation comprising sons of Ortega and VP and first lady Rosario Murillo 6 Dec met Russian Deputy FM Sergei Ryabkov in Russia’s capital Moscow to seek to expand bilateral cooperation; Murillo same day asked U.S. and EU to lift sanctions on officials. Govt 9 Dec cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan, said People’s Republic of China “is the only legitimate government” as “Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory”. Attorney General’s Office 26 Dec seized Taiwan’s embassy premises and handed them to China. Organization of American States (OAS) 8 Dec approved resolution urging Ortega to release all political prisoners and mandating OAS Sec Gen Luis Almagro to lead diplomatic efforts to convince govt to accept OAS good offices mission; Almagro 17 Dec requested extension of deadline until mid-Jan to report on progress; OAS mission would seek to facilitate implementation of comprehensive electoral reforms, repeal all legislation restricting political participation, and launch inclusive dialogue on new elections. EU Parliament 16 Dec adopted resolution notably calling for EU sanctions on Ortega. U.S. President Biden 21 Dec announced Nicaragua will only receive humanitarian and trade-related aid in 2022.

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Reports & Briefings

The Risks of a Rigged Election in Nicaragua

Also available in Español

The Keys to Restarting Nicaragua’s Stalled Talks

Also available in Español

A Road to Dialogue After Nicaragua’s Crushed Uprising

Also available in Español

In The News

8 Nov 2021
[Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega] has shown that political survival outweighs any possible internal or external pressure. It was a matter of life or death for him to ensure re-election. The Guardian

Tiziano Breda

Analyst, Central America
11 Mar 2020
What we are seeing is a quiet stifling of opposition [in Nicaragua]. The Guardian

Ivan Briscoe

Program Director, Latin America and Caribbean

Latest Updates

Virtual Roundtable: What Happens After Nicaragua's One-sided Poll? (Online Event, 13th October 2021)

This virtual roundtable assesses the risks of turmoil and political violence, the aggravation of the country’s humanitarian predicament resulting in a surge of emigration and its significance for the region’s democratic backslide.

Deportation and Disease: Central America’s COVID-19 Dilemmas

As the coronavirus spreads, and the U.S. presidential election looms, the Trump administration and Mexican government continue to deport migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Some deportees are carrying the virus. Central American states should press their northern neighbours for more stringent health measures.

Also available in Español

Coaxing Nicaragua Out of a Deadly Standoff

Political repression and economic hardship are pushing Nicaragua toward a low-intensity, protracted conflict. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2019 - Third Update for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to press for compliance with earlier agreements and a fresh round of negotiations that can help the country out of this deadly standoff. 

Also available in Español
EU Watch List / Global

Watch List 2019 – Third Update

Watch List Updates complement International Crisis Group’s annual Watch List, most recently published in January 2019. These early-warning publications identify major conflict situations in which prompt action, driven or supported by the European Union and its member states, would generate stronger prospects for peace. The third update to the Watch List 2019 includes entries on Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Sudan and Yemen.