On December 21, 2020, the Nicaraguan Parliament passed a law paving the way for Daniel Ortega to remain in power in the next elections of November 2021.
The Law in Defense of the Rights of the People to Independence, Sovereignty, and Self-determination for Peace will allow the Sandinista regime to declare any opponent a “traitor to the country,” a label that would prevent them from running for public office.
“The initiative, approved by the Legislative Assembly, seeks to restrict political rights in order to limit electoral competition,” Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), told the press on December 21, 2020. “The government of Nicaragua […] will deny the Nicaraguan people the right to freely elect their representatives, transforming the elections into an imposition rather than an election.”
“The initiative, approved by the Legislative Assembly, seeks to restrict political rights in order to limit electoral competition,” Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States.
Gabriel Álvarez, a Nicaraguan lawyer and expert in constitutional law, told the news portal Despacho 505 that the new legislation contradicts the Nicaraguan constitution, and has direct consequences on the coming democratic process.
“From a strictly technical, legal point of view, it’s a deplorable law, and it is from a political point of view as well, because the options for a peaceful, institutional solution, which is what the people of Nicaragua want, are being closed off,” Álvarez said.
The approved legislation empowers Ortega to arbitrarily apply sanctions to his detractors, since it does not provide any guarantee in the process of declaring someone a “traitor to the country.” These sanctions not only include the inability to run for elections, but also imprisonment.
“If Nicaragua were to adopt a law like the one Daniel Ortega has ordered [legislators] to pass, he should be the first one to be subjected to it. For all the violations that he has committed and the damage that he has caused, he should be the first to be banned from running for public office,” Juan Sebastián Chamorro, a member of the opposition nongovernmental organization (NGO) Civic Alliance and a detractor who is permanently under police watch, posted on his website.
The law passed with 70 percent of Sandinista and allied votes, with 14 voting against and five abstentions. The new legislation joins other measures taken by the regime to prevent free and transparent elections from taking place in November.
“Ortega’s strategy is to use laws to limit all competition; then he will increase repression, together with perks for patrons, and, in the end, he will use all the means extensively to achieve a victory without difficulty,” Manuel Orozco, head of the Washington-based Center for Migration and Economic Stabilization, told AFP.
In October 2020, the OAS General Secretariat reported that the Ortega regime was holding at least 113 political prisoners. “All have been publicly presented as criminals and have not had access to a fair judicial process, thus violating the principle of the presumption of innocence and all their fundamental freedoms,” the OAS said.
Ortega has been in power since 2007. During his dictatorship, multiple human rights violations have been reported, with these increasing in April 2018, when a series of protests erupted against the regime.
The NGO Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights, temporarily based in Costa Rica, reports that from April 2018 to January 2019 the country registered 651 deaths and 4,578 persons injured as a result of the Ortega regime’s repression. The organization also reports that 1,336 people have gone missing at the hands of paramilitary groups.