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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 widespread condemnation of crackdown on dissent, Managua broke relations with Organization of American States, and authorities scored victory in maritime dispute with Colombia. Govt 24 April expelled representative of Organization of American States (OAS) in capital Managua, withdrew its representatives to regional body and said it will no longer participate in any OAS-related activity. Govt also expropriated building where OAS embassy was located, and announced creation of “Museum of Infamy” on site instead. Sec Gen Luis Almagro 27 April said Nicaragua’s move was unprecedented, including during times of worst dictatorships in the Americas. Move follows widespread international condemnation of country’s human rights record, as 38 European Parliament members 4 April sent letter to President Ortega expressing concern about human rights situation, demanding “immediate and unconditional release of the 169 political prisoners”; OAS Sec Gen Almagro same day had also urged international community to “increase diplomatic pressure” on Ortega to end “system of repression and torture”. U.S. State Department 12 April published 2021 Report on Human Rights Practices, denouncing how Ortega “awarded himself a fourth consecutive term” and arbitrarily imprisoned “nearly 40 opposition figures”. Despite international condemnation, repression continued during month. Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners of Nicaragua 5 April said at least 181 political opponents still held in prison for political reasons, some since 2018; regional civil society network Voces del Sur 13 April reported at least 103 attacks on press freedom during March; Parliament 20 April cancelled legal credentials of 25 NGOs; at least 164 have been cancelled since Nov 2018. Meanwhile, Managua scored victory in maritime dispute with Bogotá after International Court of Justice 21 April ruled Colombian activities in Nicaraguan marine zone violated Nicaraguan sovereignty, ordered Colombia to stop interfering in Nicaragua’s waters. Govt 7 April voted against UN General Assembly resolution suspending Russia from UN Human Rights Council (see Ukraine).

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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.