Category Archives: Nicaragua

Nicaragua remains mired in a bit of a stalemate.

I think that I started three or four op-eds on Nicaragua this week but kept getting stumped. Ortega seems content to fight this latest battle out while the domestic opposition shows no signs of letting up. The international community has mustered a pretty strong consensus condemning events in the country (not including the Central American left), but it's not clear what more they can or will do. The United States is leveling additional sanctions against members of the regime engaged in perpetrating the violence, but it has little legitimacy or leverage in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua remains mired in a bit of a stalemate. In lieu of my thoughts, here are a few takes on the crisis in Nicaragua.

The Inter-American Dialogue's Latin America Advisor asks Will Nicaragua Find a Resolution to its Political Crisis?

Jose Miguel Cruz argues that the Bloody uprising in Nicaragua could trigger the next Central American refugee crisis.

John Otis takes a look at how the thousands of Americans who have settled in Nicaragua over the last two decades are surviving the instability in ‘Pack Up and Get Out’: Nicaraguan Unrest Shakes U.S. Expat Community  for the Wall Street Journal.

Another night of government repression in Nicaragua

Orlando Perez gives his take on Nicaragua for Global Americans with Hear no evil, see no evil: Daniel Ortega in the midst of a crisis.
Ultimately, only an end to violence and negotiations that lead to regime change can resolve the crisis peacefully. At the moment, however, the prospects for such an outcome seem more remote than ever. Ortega, his wife, and their supporters seem adamant to remain in power by whatever means. The opposition does not seem to have the leverage necessary to push the regime to negotiate in good faith. The armed forces seem content to allow armed civilians to violently repress popular protests and to undermine domestic security. The police are actively involved in the repression. The international community is struggling to find an effective way of promoting a peaceful resolution. In the middle of this chaos are the Nicaraguan people, whose economy is deteriorating, whose security has been undermined, and whose dream of peace and democracy has turned into a nightmare.
Last night was another brutal one in Nicaragua as pro-government forces attacked the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua. Easier said than done but the only solution is for Ortega and his followers to leave power.

For better or worse, Nicaragua is on its own

It is beyond sad to see what is happening in Nicaragua. Daniel Ortega has spent the last ten-plus years dismantling what semblance of democracy the country had built over the previous two decades.

We did not necessarily turn a blind eye to his autocratic tendencies, here's an op-ed I wrote for Al Jazeera on Chipping away at democracy in Nicaragua and Panama in December 2012, but we tried to content ourselves with the fact that the economy was growing, poverty rates were improving, crime was low compared to its neighbors, and some collaboration was taking place between the Ortega family and the private sector. Nicaragua had its problems but we much preferred their problems to the problems confronted in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

As Tim Rogers writes in the Atlantic, "Nicaragua is now in the throes of a mass uprising against Ortega’s murderous regime. It’s a dangerous endeavor for an unarmed population, especially after the collapse of peace talks last week. But there’s no going back. Nicaragua has experienced a national awakening."

No one seems to have a good sense of where things go from here. The United States is in no position to broker an acceptable resolution to the crisis. Among other things, it is hampered by Trump and its long, awful history in Nicaragua. Brazil is beset by corruption scandals. Mexico is in the grips of an election. Cuba is dealing with its own transition (away from the Castros?) and Venezuela has nothing to offer. Even if they wanted to, Nicaragua's immediate neighbors of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Costa Rica don't seem to be interested in providing any coordinated response.

For better or worse, Nicaragua is on its own.

Ortega’s not out of the woods yet.

Boz and Francisco Toro have an op-ed in the Washington Post on The unlikely origins of Nicaragua’s epic wave of protest.
Given the intensity of the protests, what triggered them sounds surprisingly small: a modest pension reform that raised taxes between 1 and 4 percentage points and cut benefits by 5 percent.
Needless to say, that’s not the whole story. Ortega has spent more than a decade dismantling Nicaragua’s democracy. His Sandinista Party has stolen elections for the Nicaraguan congress and stacked the judiciary with cronies, and controls nearly every mayoral seat. The president reformed the constitution to grant massive concessions to a Chinese developer for a canal that will never be built plus projects that benefit Ortega’s party, allies and family. He has tried to silence dissent by buying off many of the major media outlets. The Sandinista-controlled courts allowed Ortega to run for a third term in 2016, which he won under blatantly unfair conditions.
Pension reform is something tangible everyone was able to understand - contribute a greater share of one's income and receive fewer benefits. However, the reforms took place against in an environment of decreasing legitimacy because of the Ortega family's dismantling of democracy. I mentioned the underlying causes last week as well. Nonviolent protests against the regime's actions have been taking place this weekend. Ortega's not out of the woods yet.

Protests rattle Nicaragua

Ten Nicaraguans have been killed and over 100 injured since Wednesday in "clashes between police and opponents of changes to the pension system." Nicaraguans protesting the government's decision to increase worker contributions to their pensions while simultaneously decreasing the benefits of those pensions.  According to the New York Times, students from the public universities and retirees have made up the majority of the protesters.

Electoral shenanigans, moderate economic growth, low levels of crime and insecurity, Ortega's cult of personality, a fractured opposition, and the selective use of repression have provided relatively stability to Nicaragua even as the country's democratic political system disintegrated.

Longtime Nicaragua-watcher Tim Rogers has a sense that today's protests are somehow different from those of earlier years, particularly those of 2009.
But this week's street protests have revealed a chink in Ortega's armor. Suddenly, his control over the country—and even Sandinismo—is being challenged like never before. Students from universities that have been bastions of Sandinista strength are now leading the pushback against Ortega's government. Sandinista revolutionaries in the heroic town of Monimbó, the cradle of insurrection in the 1970s, clashed wildly with pro-government forces in a block-by-block street fight on Thursday afternoon.
...
The situation now threatens to get entirely out of hand. Events are happening fast—almost too fast for the country to fully comprehend. Sometimes history lurches forward after years of stasis. Nicaraguans have lived through it before. Some think it's happening again.
While the Ortega government says that it is open to dialogue, its rhetoric has rejected the legitimacy of the protesters' concerns. Vice-President Rosario Murillo has said that the protesters are being manipulated and she has blamed the violence on "vampires" and "tiny groups that inflame and destabilize to destroy Nicaragua." While it is early, the regime's survival is at stake. Murillo's statement seems to make that crystal clear.