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Inside Latin America | Nicaragua’s Election: What’s Happening In The Country?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Casper Libero chapter.

The article below was written by Giulia Lozano and edited by Gabriela Sartorato. Liked this type of content? Check out Her Campus Cásper Líbero for more!

On November 8, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega confirmed his fourth consecutive term in office, after receiving 75% of the vote. The elections, however, had no real competition and are considered undemocratic, because seven of the pre-candidates for the presidency were detained, as well as 32 other opponents, so that they could not run. Consequently, the current head of state competed for the post against five unknown politicians from minor parties aligned with Ortega. 

Before the elections, the dictator had the worst approval ratings in his political history and was already accused of crimes against humanity. Furthermore, a Cid Gallup poll indicated that he would lose against any of his opponents.

Now Daniel Ortega, who came to power in 2007 through the ballot box, will have five more years as president, at the head of the Sandinista National Liberation Front and with his wife, Rosario Murillo, elected vice president.

Among the actions that hurt democracy and turn Nicaragua into a “police state”, which eliminated and suppressed all individual freedoms through surveillance, as analyzed by the president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Antonia Urrejola, in an interview to G1, some are cited by the commission as: extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detentions and invasions, and threats of retaliation.

Observers from the European Union (EU) and the Organization of American States (OAS) were not allowed to monitor the voting, and journalists were barred from entering the country on election day.

Urnas Abiertas (Open Polls), an independent observatory, pointed to several irregularities in Sunday’s vote, such as at least 200 acts of political violence at polling places and coercive actions to vote. The Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) estimated a voter turnout of 65%, while Urnas Abiertas estimated an abstention of more than 80%.

Ortega’s election had many repercussions worldwide, the European Union rejected the result commenting that it “completes the conversion of Nicaragua into an autocratic regime” and “lacks legitimacy”; the US President Joe Biden also evaluated that the elections were neither free nor fair and are a “farce”.

In addition, the OAS General Assembly voted on a resolution stating that the latest Nicaraguan popular vote lacks democratic legitimacy and that the Assembly’s Permanent Council should make a collective assessment of the political crisis in the country. 

The recent controversy involving the Central American country comes three and a half years after protests calling for the dictator’s resignation. The repression was so severe that it left more than 300 people dead and 100,000 in exile, instigating a crisis in Nicaragua and causing a strong migratory wave that brought thousands of people to Costa Rica and the United States, mainly.

Who Is Daniel Ortega

When he finishes his current term, Ortega will complete 20 consecutive years in power, but considering other occasions, he has been at the head of the country for 29 years. 

He first led the country when he was elected coordinator of the Governing Council in 1981, two years after the triumph of the Sandinista Revolution (1979). In 1984, he won the elections, holding the presidency until 1990. He returned to power in 2007 and has been in charge of the country ever since.

From guerrilla fighter against the Somoza dynasty to tyrant, Ortega has been his party’s only candidate for the presidency for 37 years and has run on eight occasions. 

His return to power in 2007 came after a pact between him and former President Arnoldo Alemán, which lowered the threshold for a candidate to win the election from 45% to 35% of the vote. Ortega was elected with a percentage of 38% and never left office.

In another maneuver, the head of state managed, first through the Supreme Court and then through the National Assembly, to get reforms to the electoral rules valid until then that prohibited re-election and running for office after two terms at different times.

Finally, using a law approved by the Sandinista parliament itself, the Law for the Defense of Peoples’ Rights to Independence, he justifies the imprisonment and curtailment of the freedom of opponents, claiming that they “practice acts that undermine independence, sovereignty and self-determination, incite foreign interference in internal affairs, call for military interventions, organize with financing from foreign powers to carry out acts of terrorism and destabilization”.

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Giulia Lozano Pacini

Casper Libero '23