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Three decades from the end of its civil war, Nicaragua was shaken in 2018 by a mass uprising that President Daniel Ortega met with a violent crackdown. Hundreds died and thousands fled the country as security forces broke up mostly peaceful protests, spurred by an unpopular reform to the social security system. Despite Ortega’s major achievements in the fight against crime and economic development, critics accused him of undermining democracy and seeking to establish a dynastic authoritarian regime. 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

Repression against opposition leaders continued ahead of legislative and presidential elections due in Nov. Prosecutor’s Office 8 Sept issued arrest warrants against award-winning novelist Sergio Ramírez on charges of “money laundering”, “incitement to hatred” and “conspiracy” to destabilise country; Ramírez has been living in exile since June. Police 20 Sept arrested sociologist Irving Larios in capital Managua over conspiracy accusations. After authorities 31 Aug-3 Sept for first time allowed families to visit detained opposition and civil society figures in “El Nuevo Chipote” prison in capital Managua, relatives of 19 prisoners 7 Sept denounced mistreatments, including isolation, hunger and lack of medical care. Inter-American Court of Human Rights 9 Sept requested Managua’s authorisation to enter country to assess situation of group of detained opposition and civil society leaders. UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet 13 Sept urged govt to cease “persecution of the opposition, the press and civil society”; in joint statement to UN Human Rights Council, 50 countries 14 Sept questioned legitimacy of elections set for 7 Nov. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 15 Sept said Ortega’s govt was taking Nicaragua “down the grim path of authoritarianism”; U.S. govt late Sept pulled its Defense Attache Lt. Col. Roger Antonio Carvajal Santamaria out of Nicaragua after he made comments complimentary of Nicaragua’s military. Meanwhile violence against civil society activists continued to run high. Unidentified gunmen 11 Sept shot and seriously injured Joao Maldonado, political activist and well-known figure of 2018 anti-govt demonstrations, in neighbouring Costa Rica; attack came one day before planned protest against Ortega in Costa Rica’s capital San José. Advocacy group Global Witness 13 Sept said country had highest reported per capita rate of violence against environmental activists in 2020, with 12 killed – rising from five in 2019.
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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

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

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
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.

The Keys to Restarting Nicaragua’s Stalled Talks

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.

Also available in Español

A Thaw or a Trap? Nicaragua’s Surprise Return to Negotiations

Nicaragua has launched a second round of national dialogue to negotiate a way out of the political and economic crisis that erupted last year. Both the opposition and international actors should demand results, but avoid the animosity that contributed to the first round’s failure.

Also available in Español