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Another Sham Election in Nicaragua; Ortega's Main Opponents Have Been Imprisoned or Worse

Nicaragua will hold a presidential election on November 7th, but absolutely no one believes it will be free and fair. Following the Vladimir Putin electoral playbook, Daniel Ortega has imprisoned, disappeared, or forced his main opponents into exile. One might ask why Ortega even bothers with elections.

New York Times: "The Nicaraguan president, Daniel Ortega, who has most recently been in power since 2007, is running for a fourth consecutive term this year. Virtually all of his potential challengers have disappeared, been detained, or pushed into exile, while the independent media has been silenced and the main opposition party has been formally disqualified from running."

And one of Ortega's chief critics was wounded in an assassination attempt last month while in exile in Costa Rica.

World Politics Review: "The Nicaraguan regime appears to be extending its intensifying wave of repression beyond the country’s borders. Last Saturday, the exiled Nicaraguan pro-democracy activist Joao Maldonado, 34, was nearly killed when a man on a motorcycle fired multiple rounds into the car he was riding in Costa Rica, striking him in the chest and other parts of his body. Maldonado remains in critical condition in a San Jose hospital. And although no perpetrator has been identified, suspicions have fallen on Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, whose transformation from independence hero to brutal dictator shows no sign of abating."

And one of Ortega's staunchest allies in Nicaragua, the Catholic Church, has now turned against him.

America Magazine: "The church and Mr. Ortega had been allied for years. ... In exchange for support from the church, Mr. Ortega, a longtime atheist, moderated his leftist views, adopted strongly religious rhetoric and banned abortion. In 2018, however, Mr. Ortega’s relationship with the church soured after security forces and pro-government paramilitaries violently cracked down on mass protests against Mr. Ortega and [Vice President Rosario] Murillo [Ortega's wife]. More than 300 people were killed during the violence, according to Human Rights Watch, while many more were arrested and tortured."

Despite opposition from the Church and international condemnation of his brutal crackdown, Daniel Ortega is assured victory on November 7th. However, a sham election won't quell popular opposition to his government and political unrest will likely grow. Tens of thousands of Nicaraguans have already fled the country because of the political violence and foreign investment and tourism declined rapidly after 2018. A nation that was once viewed as the next success story in Central America, the next Costa Rica, is beginning to look a lot more like Honduras with its legendary repression, poverty, and corruption.

Global Risk Insights: "The reason that Nicaragua’s political environment is particularly important to keep in mind for the country’s economic outlook this year is that 2021 is an election year. Uncertainty over what the outcome of the election might be and of the Nicaraguan public’s response to it will likely put a damper on investment. In a worst case scenario where political violence erupts, probably in the event that Ortega wins and the election is not viewed by the public as fair, Nicaragua would likely experience a further erosion of investor confidence and quite possibly economic losses as a result of property damage and trade disruption. Naturally, such a scenario would further delay Nicaragua’s economic recovery and, importantly, may have wider regional effects as a result of refugee outflows."

As we have said before in these pages, Ortega can still serve the people of Nicaragua by stepping down and ensuring a smooth transition to a fairly elected successor. He can still salvage the nation's once promising economic future.


By: Don Lam & Curated Content

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