Last week, three more police detentions were carried out, further confirming the totalitarian nature of a regime that can maintain power only through force.
None of the three detainees was an aspiring candidate to the presidency. However, all three coincided in demanding the free elections that the regime is set on impeding in order to assure their permanence in power.
On Monday, July 26, political analyst Jose Antonio Peraza, a member of the Group to Promote Electoral Reforms, was abducted by the police and jailed. Peraza had stated: “there are no guarantees [in Nicaragua] for a free, transparent and competitive election.”
On Tuesday, July 27, former foreign minister Francisco Aguirre Sacasa was seized by police after he attempted to cross into Costa Rica via the Peñas Blancas border station. Aguirre had retired from active politics and had even given up any role as an analyst of the national crisis. Nonetheless, he remains one of the country’s principal experts on Nicaragua’s political and economic relations with the United States.
Two days later, on July 29, police abruptly abducted defense attorney Maria Oviedo from her mother’s house in Leon. Oviedo, who remains in jail, is a human rights lawyer with the Permanent Human Rights Commission in Nicaragua. She was the defense attorney for presidential candidate Medardo Mairena, and for other farm leaders being illegally held at the El Chipote jail.
Oviedo had already denounced the violation of the most basic human rights of those being held in the jail. These prisoners are considered legally missing, since they have been held incommunicado for more than 50 days now, with no access to a lawyer or any contact with family members.
These are only three of the now 31 political prisoners who’ve been abducted since the end of May. Among them are opposition and civic leaders, students, journalists, and businessmen. This has taken place amid an accelerated criminalization of Nicaraguans’ democratic rights in the runup to the November elections.
While the principal presidential hopefuls and opposition leaders remain in jail or have been forced into exile, Daniel Ortega promotes his reelection with no real competition. In doing so, Ortega makes full use of the police state and his party’s control over the Electoral System.
Furthermore, he has denied citizens the right to free assembly and mobilization and has truncated freedom of the press and of expression. At the same time, he’s utilizing all the government resources and institutions for his reelection campaign, as if these were his private patrimony.
This past Monday, August 2, the Sandinista Front officially registered Ortega and Murillo as its presidential ticket. By confirming his wife’s continuance as vice president, Ortega also confirmed his intention to impose a dynastic succession on the country.
Nevertheless, Ortega and Murillo have already lost the November 2021 elections. Their defeat began with the explosion of civic protest that began in April 2018, when the country’s blue and white majority massively demanded an end to the dictatorship and early elections.
The April rebellion forever buried the project of a dynastic dictatorship, with Murillo as the presidential candidate in 2021. The regime’s “model” of alliance with the big business sector collapsed after April 2018, a model that had lent political legitimacy to the regime for over a decade.
Now twice sanctioned for grave human rights abuses – by the United States and most recently by the European Union – Murillo, who co-governs with Ortega, also shares with him full responsibility for dismantling democracy and committing crimes against humanity that have been fully documented by international human rights organizations.
Hence, the family dictatorship has no possibility of political succession. By imprisoning their principal competitors, including the leaders that arose from the April 2018 protests, Ortega and Murillo also destroyed the legitimacy of the November 7 elections, and of their own reelection. Accepting free elections was Ortega and Murillo’s final opportunity to be part of a solution to the national political crisis.
By blocking a transparent and competitive election, the rulers will merely impose on their own spurious reelection the consequences of its illegitimacy, and of election results that aren’t recognized by the international community.
Nicaragua’s true crossroads is no longer the results of the November 7th elections, which now promise to worsen the national political crisis, but how to begin a democratic transition and call for new elections in 2022, without Ortega and Murillo.
The first step in any such transition would be the suspension of the police state and the liberation of the more than 140 political prisoners, including the seven who had been aspiring presidential candidates. The agreements the regime signed with the Civic Alliance in March 2019, with the OAS and the Vatican as witnesses, must be fulfilled in order to restore constitutional rights and facilitate the return of the exiles.