Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega has been lucky in recent weeks: the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the earthquake in Haiti and street protests in Cuba have diverted international attention from his massive human rights violations.
On top of that, on August 23, his regime announced that it had received $ 343.5 million in financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund. This loan and others from regional organizations will help Nicaragua increase its foreign exchange reserves to an all-time high of more than $ 3.6 billion, the government said.
But it is time for the world to pay renewed attention to Nicaragua. What is happening there is awful. Relative to its population, Nicaragua is arguably the worst human rights violator in the hemisphere.
According to Human Rights Watch, more than 300 Nicaraguans were killed and 2,000 injured by police and paramilitary henchmen during anti-government protests in 2018.
That’s a huge number for a small country of just 6 million people. That’s more than double the number of people who died in Venezuela, a country of 32 million, during the 2017 protests.
And while Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro has allowed a few opposition leaders to stay out of prison – to maintain a facade of political openness – Nicaragua Ortega, in recent months, has banned all major opposition parties and jailed the country’s top seven presidential candidates on the basis of trumps. up to accusations of “treason against the motherland” or money laundering.
The latest opposition candidate to be released from prison, businessman Oscar Sobolvarro – an accidental candidate who was nominated by his party after his other potential candidates were jailed – was banned by the regime last month .
“The whole opposition has been beheaded and there is no one left to challenge the regime,” famous opposition journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro told me from his exile in Costa Rica. “We have never seen anything like it, not even at the height of the Sandinista revolution in the 1980s.”
Chamorro’s sister, Cristiana Chamorro, who led the polls for the November 7 elections, is under house arrest. Their brother Pedro Chamorro was recently arrested and sent to prison shortly before he was appointed as a replacement candidate.
From now on, Ortega will stand for re-election without a real opponent. There are a handful of candidates chosen by the regime who will run as opposition candidates, but none of them are a real enemy of the government, Chamorro told me. Ortega is expected to proclaim himself the winner in the hope that, as in the 2016 election, the world will tolerate his takeover.
This shouldn’t be the case, however. President Biden has increased personal and travel financial sanctions against Ortega regime officials, but more needs to be done.
First, the Organization of American States should suspend Nicaragua under the Inter-American Democratic Charter, opposition sources say. This would have a big impact, because it is a small country that depends heavily on international aid.
Second, the IMF should stop giving money to the Ortega dictatorship. The recent disbursement, under the IMF’s special drawing rights program to help countries fight the recession caused by the pandemic, goes directly to the Central Bank of Nicaragua. This means the Ortega diet can use it for whatever it wants.
The IMF can deny such disbursements to countries that blatantly violate human rights when a majority of its member countries decide not to recognize a country’s government, sources close to the IMF have told me. ‘Financial institution. The IMF recently denied such funds to Afghanistan after the Taliban seized power and had already done so with the Venezuelan dictatorship. Why did Nicaragua get a pass?
Third, the United States and other countries could put sanctioned Nicaraguan officials on the so-called no-fly list, a US Treasury Department database of suspected terrorists who are not allowed to board the plane. flights to or over the country. Other countries could do the same.
Any of those sanctions would help force Ortega to restore democratic freedoms once he fraudulently re-elected in November, opposition sources tell me. They are right: it is up to all democracies to put an end to the bad luck of this Nicaraguan tyrant.
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