US Congressman Albio Sires issued a statement on December 24th, pressing for a “unified international response” against the Nicaraguan government. He accused Daniel Ortega, who has headed that government since January 2007, of “authoritarian actions”.
In the statement, the Democratic representative from New Jersey advocated for countries to “join together” in their response. He warned of “Daniel Ortega’s increasingly brazen acts of authoritarianism in Nicaragua.”
Sires is a Cuban immigrant who has served in Congress since 2006. From 1995 – 2006 he was mayor of West New York, a town in the state of New Jersey. In addition to his seat in Congress, Sires chairs the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security and Trade.
“As the Nicaraguan people are struggling through a deadly pandemic and the aftermath of two devastating hurricanes,” the statement read, “President Daniel Ortega has not lifted a finger to help. Instead, he is using these catastrophes as a smokescreen to further tighten his grip on power.”
Sires’ statement continued: “His regime’s latest steps include issuing a new law that empowers Ortega to arbitrarily ban opposition politicians from running in the 2021 elections.”
On December 21st, the Sandinista majority in the National Assembly, pushed through a law that drastically limits electoral participation. Those prohibited from candidacy include anyone who “applauds the imposition of sanctions against the state and its citizens”. In addition to banning them from running, the law considers such dissenters “traitors to the nation”.
The “Law for the Defense of the People’s Rights, Independence, Sovereignty and Self-Determination for Peace” was approved in a special session. All 70 Sandinista deputies and allies voted in favor of the controversial bill. There were 14 votes opposed, and 5 abstentions.
Sires: “Ortega wants to consolidate a one-party dictatorship”
Sires accused the Ortega government of utilizing the recently passed “Law of Foreign Agents” to persecute civil society organizations and human rights activists.
The Congressman warned: “Ortega seems to believe the world’s attention is elsewhere, and he is accelerating his march toward consolidating a one-party dictatorship in Nicaragua.”
Given this, Sires urged the international community to “join together in drawing a line in the sand”. “We should do all we can to support the Nicaraguan people in this time of need, but we should also work to prevent funds from getting into the hands of Ortega.
“This means ensuring that any foreign aid and loans from international financial institutions bypass the criminal Ortega dictatorship altogether. The US Government should work more closely with our European and Latin American allies to ratchet up our sanctions and ensure Ortega and his allies can find no safe haven.”
Finally, Sires advocated for all Nicaraguan officials to be held responsible for their collaboration. “Every police officer who beats up a dissident, every mayor who coordinates repression with Ortega’s paramilitaries, and every judge who hands down a ludicrous sentence against a regime critic is an accomplice in Ortega’s crimes and should be held accountable.”