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

Crackdown on Catholic Church continued, Indigenous groups condemned govt inaction on illegal settlers, and international actors urged release of political prisoners.

Ortega’s repression of Catholic Church continued. Authorities throughout month banned at least seven religious processions from taking place and attempted to stop at least three more across country as govt clamped down on religious gatherings. Public prosecutors 10 Jan started trial of Matagalpa Bishop Rolando Álvarez, accused of “conspiracy” and “spreading false news”; judge 16 Jan found priest Óscar Benavides guilty of “conspiracy to undermine national integrity and propagation of false news” and sentenced him to eight years in prison. In closed-door trial 23-26 Jan, authorities found six priests and one layman guilty of crimes of conspiracy and spreading fake news.

Indigenous communities spoke out against govt. Representatives of Miskitus and Mayangnas indigenous communities 5 Jan published open letter to President Ortega condemning state’s inaction regarding so-called colonos, or “settlers”, whom they accuse of invading indigenous lands, murdering members of local communities, causing environmental destruction and obstructing their communities’ access to food and shelter. Police 26 Jan arrested 24 settlers after they reportedly attacked Indigenous community as part of land dispute in Bonanza municipality, North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region.

International pressure to release political prisoners persisted. U.S. Assistant Sec State Brian Nichols 6 Jan said “there has been no communication” with Ortega’s govt but that U.S. was willing to engage if Nicaragua took “positive steps”, such as releasing political prisoners and restoring “minimum rights” for all citizens. Chilean President Gabriel Boric 24 Jan called for immediate release of prisoners during summit of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. Meanwhile, Ortega 11 Jan withdrew ambassadors from Chile, European Union, Ethiopia and Belgium.

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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 e... The Guardian

Tiziano Breda

Former 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

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