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.
This week on Hold your Fire! Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Crisis Group experts Tiziano Breda and Ivan Briscoe about politics in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras and why Central Americans are leaving for the United States.
Originally published in Global Americans
Crackdown on civil society organisations continued apace, U.S. and EU took further steps to condemn govt, and parliament authorised entry of Russian troops to combat illicit activities at sea. National Assembly 2 June cancelled legal permits of 93 NGOs, 10 and 13 June 26 more international NGOs, 15-16 June 191 national NGOS, 26 June 101 more NGOs, bringing total number banned since Dec 2018 to around 760. National Police 10 June raided and closed media outlet “Trinchera de la Noticia” in capital Managua. Persecution of religious leaders increased. Notably, police 1 June arrested Catholic priest Manuel Salvador García in Nandaime town, Granada (centre), on charges of aggression against woman, becoming first Church representative detained since Ortega returned to power. After said woman refused to press charges against García, judge 22 June sentenced him to two years in prison for aggression against five others. Govt 28 June ordered closure of Catholic radio station in diocese of Matagalpa (north), making it second Catholic Church-owned station to be banned from broadcasting in last two months. U.S. and EU took additional measures to pressure govt. Notably, European Parliament 9 June approved resolution condemning systematic repression of opposition; U.S. Sec of State Antony Blinken 13 June announced visa restrictions on 93 individuals accused of undermining democracy, including judges, lawmakers and govt officials. U.S. Treasury 17 June sanctioned state-owned mining company Empresa Nicaraguense de Minas (ENIMINAS) and its president, Ruy Delgado López. Meanwhile, National Assembly 14 June ratified authorisation for entry of 180 Russian troops into country to participate in operations against illicit activities in Caribbean and Pacific Ocean.
With Nicaraguans heading to the polls in November, the government is already trying to engineer the outcome in its favour. An unfair ballot could spark unrest and a violent crackdown. External actors should push for reforms and dialogue with the opposition while eschewing counterproductive sanctions.
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.
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.
[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.
What we are seeing is a quiet stifling of opposition [in Nicaragua].
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.
Originally published in World Politics Review
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.
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.
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.