Week of Monday, June 21, 2021 | Issue 34
Mirjana Stancic, Leidy Castellanos, Benedetta Piva, Daniel Carr, SOUTHCOM Team
President of Nicaragua Daniel Ortega
Date: June 20, 2021
Parties involved: Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega, opposition figures, journalists, members of the public, neighboring countries.
The event: Since the beginning of June, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has begun a campaign of arresting and detaining rival presidential candidates, politicians, journalists, and members of the public. 19 people have been arrested by security forces and charged with inciting foreign interference. These actions have drawn international concern and outcry as President Ortega undermines Nicaraguan democracy.
President Ortega’s attempts at undermining democracy through the use of the judicial system to eliminate political opponents and dissenters have the potential to destabilize Nicaragua at a critical period. Like much of Central and South America, the country is undergoing social and economic crises as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has made the country vulnerable to political seizure as witnessed with the detainment and charges brought against politicians, journalists, and private citizens.
In the absence of political opposition and free and fair journalism, Nicaragua may see even more political turmoil and subsequent social and economic instability. Increased fear of speaking out against the president and current political party in power, The Sandinista National Liberation Front, may weaken political institutions and decrease the faith of citizens in the political process and their political freedoms.
The objective of these actions seems to be to demoralize Nicaraguans and delegitimize the voting process to the point where the majority of people would abstain since no opposition exists. In this way, President Ortega may win his fourth straight election without resorting to open fraud because he has paved the way for all competitors.
It is highly likely that people are not taking to the streets right now because public demonstrations are punishable by jail. Usually, social explosions need a detonator, and the November 7th elections might be the next one, generating an unimaginable level of fury if something is not done to respond to President Ortega’s actions prior to that date.
If President Ortega’s actions go unchecked then neighboring countries may see this as an opportunity to implement similar tactics in securing and maintaining political power. This is particularly concerning given the high levels of impunity and public sector corruption in countries such as Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico.
President Ortega’s actions could have impacts upon the current Central American immigration crisis, which has seen thousands of citizens fleeing social, economic, and political instability in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala. Political repression and authoritarian action could drive even more individuals to seek better opportunities and prospects in countries within North America.
If this political persecution continues in Nicaragua by its president, it is very likely that the United States will use diplomatic and economic tools to support the calls of Nicaraguans for greater freedom of speech and of the press, as well as to exercise the political right to vote in order to have free and fair elections in November.
There is a political dilemma that Nicaraguans may be having right now regarding the upcoming presidential elections since if people vote, it would mean the validation of non-transparent elections due to the current social-political circumstances that the country is going through with President Ortega. However, if Nicaraguans do not participate in these elections, the political right to vote would not be exercised. Therefore, this shows how affected the political rights of the people could be since there is the dilemma of voting or abstaining in the next elections.