The US State Department issued a new travel advisory to its citizens on April 20th to “not travel to Nicaragua.” It warned of the arbitrary enforcement of laws, the limited healthcare availability, after mentioning the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued the level 4 travel health notice for Nicaragua, recommending reading the Department of State’s Covid-19 page before planning any international travel. A travel alert of this level had already been issued previously in February.
The United States warned that the Nicaraguan Government “arbitrarily applies laws for political purposes.”
On March 25, US senators presented a bipartisan bill in the United States Congress, which seeks to pressure the Daniel Ortega regime to allow “free and democratic” elections next November.
A press release from the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee stated that the law will serve to “strategically align the diplomatic tools of the United States, including specific sanctions to promote democratic elections in Nicaragua in November 2021.”
Just a few days later, in an extensive chapter on Nicaragua, in its “2020 Report on Human Rights Practices” on more than 200 countries, the US State Department pointed to the Ortega regime for keeping the country under a “highly centralized and authoritarian” political system and of approving repressive laws against its citizens.
The report highlighted that during 2020 the Ortega-Murillo regime, approved “increasingly repressive laws that severely limit the ability of opposition political groups, civil society and independent media to operate.”
United States reasons for discouraging travel to Nicaragua
Among the reasons for the travel advisory the US notes that “throughout Nicaragua, government officials and law enforcement continue to target those opposed to the rule of President Ortega,” and it details among the attacks:
- Systematically targeting opposition figures (regardless of nationality), including former allies, political activists, business representatives, clergy, human rights advocates, and members of the press.
- Arbitrarily detaining pro-democracy advocates.
- Preventing certain individuals from departing Nicaragua by air or land for political reasons.
- Arbitrarily seizing and/or searching privates property including personal phones and computers looking for anti-government content.
- Arbitrarily detaining individuals with unfounded charges of terrorism, money laundering, and organized crime for political motives.
In February, with the previous travel advisory, the State Department also warned that “armed and violent uniformed police officers or civilians in civilian clothes who act as policemen (“para-police”) continue to attack anyone who is considered an opponent to the Government of President Daniel Ortega,” including a detailed list of these activities by FSLN sympathizers, which includes those previously mentioned.
The Department of State alerted in February that Covid-19 tests and its results in Nicaragua are not always available within three calendar days after the test. “Travelers should expect delays when returning to the United States,” it points out.