The Nicaraguan government arrested President Daniel Ortega’s top challengers in the November elections in a sharp escalation of political repression and the move has triggered a strong response from the Biden administration.
Geoff Thale, president of the Washington Office on Latin America, an advocacy group, said the arrests were a signal to the Biden administration — “a message that plays to nationalist sentiment in the region, that the gringos aren’t going to push us around.”
The United States called on Ortega to immediately release presidential candidates Cristiana Chamorro, Arturo Cruz, Félix Maradiaga, Juan Sebastian Chamorro and other civil society and opposition leaders arrested in the past week.
The Chamorros are cousins who belong to the most storied political family in Nicaragua.
Cristiana Chamorro’s mother, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, defeated Ortega in the presidential race in 1990, ending the 11-year reign of the Sandinista movement that had triumphed in a 1979 revolution.
The crackdown has sent independent journalists and activists into hiding for fear of reprisals.
“The United States condemns these actions in the most unequivocal terms and holds President Ortega and those complicit in these actions responsible for their safety and well-being,” said the US State Department.
In response to this wave of oppression and due to Nicaragua’s failure to implement now-overdue electoral reforms called for by the Organization of American States and backed by the UN Human Rights Council, the United States is imposing sanctions on several members of the Ortega regime for their complicity in the Ortega regime’s activities.
The U.S. Treasury is sanctioning an advisor and daughter of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, Camila Antonia Ortega Murillo, who is also the coordinator of the National Commission for the Creative Economy; Leonardo Ovidio Reyes Ramirez, the President of the Central Bank of Nicaragua; Julio Modesto Rodriguez Balladares, a military general and executive director of the military’s pension and investment fund; and Edwin Ramon Castro Rivera, a National Assembly Deputy.
As these sanctions demonstrate, there are costs for those who support or carry out the Ortega regime’s repression.
The United States will continue to use all diplomatic and economic tools at our disposal to support Nicaraguans’ calls for greater freedom and accountability as well as free and fair elections.
Ortega, 75, is seeking a fourth consecutive term in the Nov. 7 election.
Independent polls show his popularity has dropped to its lowest point ever in the wake of a devastating economic crisis and a rise in political repression.