Grace Gonzalez/Amnesty International

Nicaragua: Announcement of Ortega’s re-election augurs a terrible new cycle for human rights

The prospect of Daniel Ortega’s fourth presidential term in Nicaragua is a frightening one for a nation where human rights violations have become increasingly commonplace under his government, Amnesty International said today. 

“Once again, the people of Nicaragua find themselves in a situation where voicing criticism of the government puts them at grave risk. In the last few years, we’ve witnessed first-hand the plot of a horror thriller developing in the country, where deadly police repression, wrongful imprisonment, ill-treatment, harassment and criminalization of human rights defenders and journalists are common practices, all of them endorsed by a judiciary without independence and a National Assembly that exists only to rubberstamp Daniel Ortega’s repressive agenda,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International. 

Nicaragua’s Electoral Supreme Council announced the preliminary results of Sunday’s general election today, under which Ortega would be re-elected. His new term will begin in January 2022. The elections were marked by arbitrary arrests of activists and journalists, among other acts of harassment, coercion and political violence. Press freedom has also been in the government’s crosshairs, and the media have denounced restrictions and obstacles that have made it impossible for them to carry out their work.   

Several Nicaraguan civil society organizations and movements called for a citizen’s electoral strike in the country and protests in other countries. The media reported low voter turnout, and Nicaraguans mobilized in several cities around the world denouncing the serious human rights crisis and the impossibility of exercising political rights in Nicaragua. 

Once again, the people of Nicaragua find themselves in a situation where voicing criticism of the government puts them at grave risk

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International

Urnas Abiertas, a citizens’ electoral observatory, registered more than 200 acts of political violence and acts of electoral coercion on election day, including the presence of parapolice forces in the vicinity of the voting stations, as well as intimidation and coercion of state workers to force them to vote.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights also reported having received information on possible human rights violations.  

“Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo’s renewed mandate as president and vice president augurs the perpetuation of the structures behind the repressive strategy against critical voices and guaranteed impunity for crimes under international law. Moreover, this new period portends the continued forced migration of those who are criminalized for speaking out,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.  

“The international community must do more than standing by as brave Nicaraguans continue to fight for their dwindling human rights. During the OAS General Assembly, which takes place this week, member states must collectively assume without delay their shared responsibility for protecting the human rights of people in Nicaragua and put pressure on the Ortega government as a first step in this post-election context. These multilateral forums must do all they can to stop the structures of repression and impunity in Nicaragua from remaining untouchable.”  

Since 2018, Amnesty International has documented human rights violations including violent and lethal repression against demonstrators and harassment and criminalization  of social activists, human rights defenders lawyers and journalists. The government-controlled National Assembly also passed several laws that severely diminished the civil space and put human rights at risk.  

Since the end of May, 39 people identified as opponents of the government, including seven presidential candidates, were unfairly arrested. Some of them were forcibly disappeared for a period of time and held in secret for months before being allowed contact with a lawyer or their relatives.  

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