Five months after the enactment of the Law to Strengthen Nicaragua's Adherence to the Conditions for Electoral Reform or Renacer Law, which enabled President Joseph Biden to increase pressure on Daniel Ortega, Nicaraguan political scientist Manuel Orozco, of the Inter-American Dialogue, considers that “there is a very large gap between what is being said and how they are applying pressure”.
Orozco, director of the Remittances, Migration and Development program, said that if it were up to him to evaluate the implementation of the law he would give it a “D”, that is to say almost failing. He explained that so far, there have been ten sanctions since January when Ortega assumed his fourth consecutive mandate after a vote considered illegitimate by the international community.
The Nicaraguan political scientist participated in a panel of experts to evaluate the implementation of the norm, with Eric L. Olson, director of strategic policies of the Seattle International Foundation, together with lawyer María Laura Alvarado, representing the youth of the National Blue and White Unity (UNAB), with Javier Meléndez, director of Expediente Abierto.
The Nicaraguan expert assured that there has been no review of Nicaragua's participation in the Free Trade Agreement with Central America and the Dominican Republic, known as DR-Cafta, as established by law.
Orozco listed the violations committed in the case of the trade agreement as violations of the labor rights of Nicaraguans, the lack of access to labor protection by the State, as well as “economic extortion” of businesses operating in the free trade zones.
“Nor is it known what the report on intelligence and participation on the part of Russia (in Nicaragua) is, and also despite the fact that the Administration (Biden) has told me that it is a priority for the United States to free the political prisoners since there is a very large gap between what is being said and how they are applying pressure in this regard,” Orozco lamented.
Orozco added that this situation has a lot to do with the fact that nobody expected the magnitude of the regime's impunity, which he described as “barbaric” as of 2020, and affirmed that at this moment the Biden administration is entering a stage of “reconsidering how to increase and apply” the norm.
In this new stage, it is possible, according to the political scientist, that changes in political content will be observed, and he mentioned the necessary coordination for the suspension of Nicaragua within the Organization of American States (OAS), where the application of article 21 of the Democratic Charter is pending, to which countries, where there has been a rupture of the constitutional order, are subject.
Since months before last year's presidential elections, the dictatorship increased repression, taking 40 leaders to jail, among them seven presidential aspiring candidates, other opponents, businessmen, and social leaders, with which it sowed fear and eliminated electoral competition.
“There really is a strong reaction on the part of the international community, on the part of civil society, of a level of passivity of the Biden Administration on the implementation of the law, but on the foreign policy of the United States towards Nicaragua, based on what is happening throughout the region,” he said.
Olson: “Legitimate sanctions, but scattered”
For Olson, a veteran connoisseur of the reality of Latin America, former deputy director of the Latin American program of the Wilson Center, the sanctions may be legitimate against officials of the Ortega regime, but they are perceived dispersed.
Olson explained that these measures tend to have good results when they are well focused and do not target generalities such as regime change. He cited the example of Cuba, with sanctions that he considers very broad, and that of Iran, which sought a negotiation of the future of that country's nuclear weapons.
“I feel that sometimes, because of the desperation we feel with the Ortega-Murillo regime, one asks to throw everything at it, sanction after sanction, hoping that they fall, that there will be a change of government, that there will be more democracy in Nicaragua. The analysis is that this has little success”, considers the Seattle Foundation official.
Olson added that sanctions are not the magic wand that will solve Nicaragua's problems and added that the solution will depend on “the organizational capacity” of Nicaraguans both inside and outside the country to create a unified front with the objective of giving voice to the needs of Nicaraguans.
For his part, Orozco explained that the Renacer law was designed to strengthen the elements related to a process that would lead the country to have free and independent elections last year.
“Trying to create settling of accounts with different instruments so that the balance of power is favorable towards the Nicaraguan democratic movement. At no time is there any intention to remove a regime, any leader, dictator or not”, said Orozco.
In that sense, Biden was legally provided with several tools such as the possibility of sanctions coordinated with the international community, the monitoring of Nicaragua by international financial institutions, sanctions against individuals involved in acts of corruption or obstruction of free elections, and what perhaps aroused the most attention worldwide: the possibility of an inquiry into the Ortega Murillo family businesses.
Section 11 of the Renacer Law refers to “leverage and act” on the human rights situation and another part of the law proposes to report on the conditions of censorship and disinformation in the country. “There are a series of loose ends that need to be tied up. Formally there is no opposition, there is fragmentation, there is a blue and white spirit, but the regime reigns with great impunity”, stressed Orozco.
Alvarado, from UNAB, said that the situation in which the population finds itself, under systematic repression, a serious economic crisis, and the effects of the covid-19 pandemic.
In the case of the party structures, Alvarado said that they face the challenges of strengthening their channels of communication and dialogue with diaspora organizations, integrating a disciplinary team of experts to support political lobbying for measures to be taken against the Ortega regime, as well as facing the persecution of internal leaders.
“Sanctions should weaken the structure of repression set up by the regime”, added Alvarado.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff