Nicaragua is now a “republic of fear”

Nicaragua’s president Daniel Ortega and his vice-president and wife Rosario Murillo have won the presidential election in Nicaragua with around 75 percent of the vote, according to the first official results. Ortega will take up his fourth term in a row and rule the Central American country for five more years.

Thomas Gutschker

Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries based in Brussels.

The result is not a surprise. Even before the vote, Ortega had made all the preparations to achieve a safe victory. Since May, the regime has arbitrarily arrested nearly forty critics and opposition activists, including seven possible opponents who, according to surveys, would all have had a good chance of ousting the former revolutionary leader and his “Sandinista National Liberation Front” from power.

The American President Joe Biden described the election as a “pantomime” that was “neither free nor fair and certainly not democratic”. The arbitrary arrest of government opponents and the ban on the participation of political parties had manipulated the result long before election day, the statement said. Biden called on Ortega to restore democracy and release those arrested. Its regime has been in power since 2007 and with ever increasing use of repression against its critics.

Ortega is compared to a former dictator

The European Union also denied legitimacy in a joint declaration by the member states of the election. “Daniel Ortega has eliminated any credible competition for votes and thus deprived the Nicaraguan people of their right to freely elect their representatives,” it said. In doing so, the president violated his own constitution and international conventions. With the election, the transformation of the state into an “autocratic regime”, which began in spring 2018 and transformed the country into a “republic of fear”, was completed. The EU called for all political prisoners to be released and the proceedings against them to be closed. She also threatened further sanctions, which would no longer be limited to travel and property freezes. Consultations with the United States and Canada are already ongoing in the background.

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According to reports, militant supporters of Ortega also checked whether the citizens had cast their votes on election day. The regime also refused to admit independent election observers and refused entry to numerous journalists. In a speech, Ortega accused the opposition and the international community of wanting to stir up violence. “They are demons who do not want peace for our people.” Many today refer to Ortega as a dictator who uses the same methods as the former dictator Anastasio Somoza, who was overthrown by the Sandinista in 1979. Since 2018, tens of thousands of Nicaraguans have left the country for fear of political persecution.

In May of last year and in August of this year, the European Union imposed sanctions on a total of fourteen high representatives of the regime. Among them are the President of the National Assembly, the Head of the National Police, the Attorney General and the President of the Supreme Court. The son of President Juan Carlos Ortega was also subject to restrictions because, as director of the propaganda television channel Canal 8, he had contributed to the restriction of freedom of expression and freedom of the media. The EU foreign ministers had already agreed their reaction to the election during their meeting in mid-October. When they meet again next week, they could decide on economic sanctions in principle.

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