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Nicaragua’s Ortega Strengthens His Socialist Regime with Sham Elections

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Nicaragua has long been a bloody tyranny. With criminal ruthlessness, with nothing to envy to the regimes of Cuba and Venezuela, the dictator Daniel Ortega persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, and killed opponents throughout 2021.

Right now in Nicaragua, there are 159 political prisoners, including seven who were serious opposition candidates in the elections held on November 7, where the dictator of Managua and his henchmen once again declared themselves winners in an election where massive abstention reigned.

Why are the Nicaraguan elections a sham?

There are three main reasons:

  1. There are no guarantees of transparency and plurality, as determined by the international community, led by the United States, Europe and the main institutions in charge of evaluating the political-institutional situation in Nicaragua, such as the Organization of American States (OAS), through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR);
  2. There was no competition and no voters;
  3. Political and civil repression.

According to the Nicaraguan Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), Ortega won the elections with a very wide margin: 75.92% of the votes with 97% of the tallies counted. However, the figure is not surprising, since the CSE, as well as all institutions in Nicaragua —legislative, judicial and military powers— are in the hands of the Sandinista regime. What should be paid special attention to is the figure of the electoral authority, which highlights a turnout of 65.23%.

The number, which represents practically 2/3 of the electorate, does not coincide with the deserted images at the polling stations that were seen throughout Nicaragua. The Observatorio de Urnas Abiertas, an independent NGO, said that in the Central American country abstention reached 81.5%. Likewise, Kitty Monterrey, president of the political party Ciudadanos por la Libertad (an organization persecuted, outlawed and disqualified by the Ortega regime) told El American that, according to her experience and sources consulted, the abstention figure exceeded 80 %, coinciding with the data of Urnas Abiertas.

Some Nicaraguans attended the voting centers. According to Kitty Monterrey, many of the few voters were public officials, who were forced to vote for fear of losing their jobs. (Image: EFE)

Monterrey explained that this abstention would be the highest in the history of the country, since in 2016 abstention was 72 %, according to opposition measurements. In addition, he said that the “citizen protest was to stay at home”, since “any act of protest in Nicaragua ends up strongly repressed.”

The president of Citizens for Freedom, a leading figure in the opposition to Ortega, is currently in exile in Costa Rica, after the regime began a crusade against opposition politicians in which she was targeted. The regime even went so far as to illegally deprive Monterrey of her Nicaraguan nationality. She is now a citizen of the United States, as she had dual citizenship.

Not only did Ortega start a persecution against opposition politicians, but also carried out a harsh repressive campaign against the national and international press and Nicaraguan businessmen. Michael Healy, president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise, was arrested for alleged crimes of money laundering, property and assets, in addition to violating Law 1055, or Law for the Defense of the Rights of the People, which imposes sanctions on those who “incite foreign interference or manage economic blockades against Nicaragua”, according to the media La Voz de América.

This delicate context, according to Monterrey, exposes that today Nicaragua “is worse than Cuba or Venezuela. In Cuba they have scheduled their march for November 15, obviously we don’t know what is going to happen, but at least they can try to leave, in Nicaragua not even that is possible. It is immediately repressed.”

Nicaraguan citizens in exile took to the streets to protest against Daniel Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, who is considered by the regime as “co-president”, a figure that does not exist in Nicaragua’s legal framework. (Image: EFE).

Is the rejection of Ortega enough?

To the large abstention must be added the unequivocal rejection of Ortega’s legitimacy by the international community. The United States, the European Union, the vast majority of South and Central American countries condemned the false elections. President Joe Biden used one of the harshest terms to reject the elections, calling them a “pantomime election” in a statement issued on November 7.

However, the Democratic administration is taking a somewhat inconsistent stance in dealing with Ortega’s Sandinista regime. On November 5, two days before the elections, President Biden refused to sign the RENACER bill, a bill created to pressure Daniel Ortega, his hierarchs and support the freedom of the Nicaraguan people.

This law, promoted by Republican congressmen with Hispanic roots, such as María Elvira Salazar (FL), was approved in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, but the president did not want to sign it, because according to him, he did not want to hinder the electoral process, which already seemed to be fraudulent.

Biden’s decision was criticized by Representative Maria Elvira Salazar, one of the bill’s leaders, who told El American that she was “absolutely speechless. After months of hard work by me and my colleagues in Congress and, above all, by the people of Nicaragua who have suffered this nightmare, the Biden Administration refuses to sign RENACER in time for the elections.”

“The Administration’s Latin America policy has been a failure from the beginning. Time and time again they fail to act,” said Salazar. “They are changing the role of the United States from a guardian of democracy to a spectator of its downfall.”

A Nicaraguan protests in Costa Rica against Sandinismo, the ideological underpinning of Ortega’s tyranny. (Image: EFE)

The RENACER law is another pressure mechanism against Ortega and his tyranny, which enjoys the support of clear enemies of the United States, such as the Cuban and Venezuelan regimes. In 2019, the Trump administration labeled these three countries as “the troika of tyrants,” alluding to the “Axis of Evil” that the Bush administration used to point to the threats once posed by Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

The logic of the troika of tyrants is clear. There are three socialist dictatorships in the region: Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua; all are criminal and bloody and represent a risk not only for their citizens, but also for the region, the backyard that the United States has been ignoring while the influence of Russia and China grows.

While Managua does not have the reputation of Caracas and Havana for meddling in the internal affairs of other countries in the region —the Chavista and Castro tyrannies have always sought to destabilize democracies, promote their political ideology and also finance extreme leftist parties and politicians— the Ortega regime is seeking closer relations with Moscow and is, in fact, succeeding in doing so.

The Nicaraguan elections were recognized by Russia, a staunch ally of Ortega, which offered its arms support in response to Managua’s request for modern weapons. The Russian weapons, which were also offered to Venezuela and Cuba, would be delivered to Nicaragua as a way of militarily supporting the Central American country which is immersed in a tense relationship with the United States, according to Russian Defense Minister, Army General Sergey Shoigu, during the Moscow Security Conference held last June.

The strong Russian presence in Nicaragua is addressed in the RENACER bill which Biden refused to sign for the time being. The bill contemplates an increase in American intelligence to analyze and study Russia’s presence in the Central American country.

This growth of Russian influence coincides with the increase of Chinese presence in Latin America, as the Asian giant has become the main commercial partner of Latin American countries.

The U.S. loses influence in its backyard

While socialist tyrannies continue to consolidate in the region and China and Russia work successfully to improve relations and gain geopolitical influence, the United States neglects Latin America.

Communiqués and pressure mechanisms are proving insufficient to combat dictators in the backyard; and that is a security problem for the entire hemisphere, including the United States, for a variety of reasons: displaced Nicaraguans, Cubans, and Venezuelans are landing on American soil; Caracas, as the financial leader of “the troika of tyrants”, finances criminals of the world and enemies of the United States, also facilitates the shipment of cocaine to the country, as does Nicaragua, which is on the list of countries with the highest drug transit.

Ortega is smiling because he knows that, despite international condemnation, his immediate future could well be similar to that of his ally Nicolás Maduro, who has managed to avoid international pressures without major difficulties by entrenching himself in power. Those who suffer from this, clearly, are the Nicaraguans.

Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón is a journalist at El American specializing in the areas of American politics and media analysis // Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón es periodista de El American especializado en las áreas de política americana y análisis de medios de comunicación.

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