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

Govt crackdown continued, notably targeting figures within Catholic Church; President Ortega strengthened ties with Iran.

Several figures from Catholic Church fled country, fearing persecution. Amid crackdown on Catholic Church, presbyters Luis Masís Velásquez and Bayardo Antonio Rugama from Diocese of Bluefields 12 June fled country to avoid imprisonment. U.S. senators 8 June introduced bill to extend sanctions on Nicaragua until end of 2028, which includes proscriptions against those responsible for violations against religious believers. UN human rights office 21 June warned “persecution of members of the Catholic church has intensified” in recent months.

Broader govt crackdown continued. VP Murillo 2 June announced “citizen security” scheme whereby police are authorised to enter people’s homes, which critics denounced as a surveillance program. Ortega govt 9 June confiscated assets belonging to the 222 political prisoners exiled in Feb. After revoking legal status of Red Cross in May, Parliament 1-2 June approved creation of White Cross organisation, transferring all Red Cross assets to state and bringing new organisation under Ministry of Health’s administration.

In other important developments. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi 13 June visited President Ortega in capital Managua, where both criticised U.S. sanctions. Parliament 15 June authorised entry of Russian, Cuban, U.S., Mexican and Venezuelan troops, ships and aircraft into country; govt said their presence is aimed at strengthening aid deliveries and combating organised crime.

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In The News

14 Feb 2023
[Nicaraguan President Ortega] would prefer to revert to a steady, low-level authoritarian government in which there are perhaps none of the more visible forms of abuses b... Los Angeles Times

Ivan Briscoe

Program Director, Latin America and Caribbean

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