Nicaragua’s Unyielding Spiral Downward

Daniel Ortega said there were 228 Nicaraguans on the list of released political prisoners. A total of 222 of them were released and sent into forced exile on February 9.  Photo: Office of the Presidency, Nicaragua

The Ortega regime and its followers find themselves immersed in a spiral of decay, in which all legal legitimacy is replaced by the raw and arbitrary use of power.

Editorial from La Jornada (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – In the late hours of February 8, the Nicaraguan government summarily rounded up 222 political prisoners from different jails, prisons and even homes, in the case of those under house arrest. They loaded them all on buses, took them to the Managua airport, and put them on an airplane. Once there, they informed these prisoners that they were being released and sent into exile in the United States.

The next day, February 9, Ortega’s docile Parliament approved a law stripping these expelled prisoners of their Nicaraguan nationality, under the pretext of their bogus convictions for treason to the homeland. One day later, Bishop Rolando Alvarez, one of two people who refused to leave Nicaragua for the United States, had his February 15 court date abruptly rescheduled for that same day. He was then sentenced to 26 years and four months in prison, the longest sentence yet to be imposed on the dissidents and critics of President Daniel Ortega.

This dizzying succession of events make up the most recent episode in the onslaught of Ortega and Rosario Murillo, his wife and vice president (co-president according to Ortega). Their assault has been aimed against any person or institution that pronounces unfavorable opinions about the regime, or that, in the judgement of the presidential couple, poses any threat to their permanence in power.

Hardened after violently repressing the massive 2018 demonstrations demanding their resignation – in police and paramilitary actions that left hundreds killed, thousands injured, and over 100,000 forced into exile by the “forces of order”, in a nation of 6.5 million inhabitants – the Ortega-Murillo couple left behind all democratic appearances and embarked on an implacable persecution of their opponents.

From that time on, they’ve closed universities and half a hundred independent media outlets, as well as 3,106 NGOs, 42% of which had been in existence for five years or more. In some cases, the outlawing of these entities has bordered on the absurd, since they included equestrian clubs, musicians’ associations, the Association for those with Kidney Failure, and an institution that offered free operations to children bore with cleft palates.

During 2021, in the lead-up to the presidential elections where Daniel Ortega aspired to win a fourth consecutive term, he outlawed the chief opposition political parties and imprisoned the seven people seen as his chief possible opponents in the race for succession. He didn’t stop there. He also rounded up dozens of opposition leaders, student, rural and business leaders, lawyers and journalists and jailed them under bogus charges. These make up the bulk of the contingent of prisoners released this week.

One paradoxical aspect of Ortega’s massive jailing of dissidents lies in the fact that many of them were historic leaders of the Sandinista Front for National Liberation, the movement that defeated the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza in 1979, and whose initials and symbols Ortega continues using, despite having transformed himself into the antithesis of the original Sandinista principles. 

The regrettable spectacle of expelling and erasing the nationality of both political adversaries and the citizens who made use of their freedom of expression and demonstration, is a clear exhibition of the vortex of decay that the Ortega camp finds itself immersed in. In this downwards spiral, all legal legitimacy is replaced by the arbitrary and raw use of power, all in order to perpetuate an authoritarian, dynastic and incurably corrupt political project.

Originally published in the Mexican newspaper La Jornada.


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