By Senji Torrey
Public Relations Manager
The Central American country of Nicaragua is holding its presidential election on Nov. 7. However, with current president Daniel Ortega running unopposed, this year’s vote has turned many heads.
Back in early June, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken accused Ortega’s government of practicing the “undemocratic, authoritarian action,” of arresting every single other candidate on ostensibly baseless grounds.
Ortega began his campaign by arresting Cristiana Chamorro, arguably his most dangerous challenger. Police arrested Chamorro, the daughter of former Nicaraguan President Violetta Chamorro, on Jun. 1 on money laundering charges. These charges have not been proven. In addition to Cristiana Chamorro, the police also arrested her brothers Pedro Chamorro and Carlos Fernando Chamorro. In a statement, Cristiana Chamorro refused to back down, stating that “this is another act by the dictatorship against the people of Nicaragua, freedom of expression, human rights and public liberties.”
After this first arrest, the Nicaraguan police proceeded to perform many nighttime raids on prospective candidate’s houses and offices with the goal of arresting these individuals and proving their guilt in one fell swoop. Seven candidates were seized in this way. Ortega’s arrests are rooted in “The Law for the Defense of People’s Rights to Independence, Sovereignty, and Self-determination for Peace,” signed in December of 2020 to prevent any “traitors” from holding public office. The law’s vague language defines a violation as an attempt to “undermine independence, sovereignty and self-determination…[or] damage the supreme interests of the nation.”
In addition to these eight candidates, arrests were made of around 30 other opposition leaders; many of them spent weeks in jails that loved ones described as dire. United Nations Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet is working with the Organization of American States’ (OAS) human rights sector to urge the president to release these detainees, but Ortega has not budged.
This is not the first time Ortega’s government has come under fire. In 2018, the president dispatched his police to strike down anti-government protests most prominently in Masaya and the capital city of Managua. More than 300 protestors were killed during these altercations, and countless others were forced to leave the country for fear of being caught.
With Ortega’s chokehold unlikely to let up any time soon, many experts are concerned that Nicaragua may be heading down a path towards self-destruction and even conflict with other nations. However, there may be hope that Nicaragua can reclaim their country once again with long-term planning and consistent pressure on the regime.
(Sources: Tico Times, Human Rights Watch, AP News, Diario Metro)