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WASHINGTON – US Senators Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and 12 Senate colleagues called attention to the harassment and imprisonment by the Ortega regime of more than 150 leaders of opposition, including presidential candidates, and its ongoing authoritarian crackdown ahead of the November 2021 presidential election in the country. In a bipartisan letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, senators call for increased efforts to secure the immediate release of political prisoners targeted by Ortega, urging the Biden administration to expand its use of the sanctioning powers granted under the NICA law and the RENACER law. to designate Ortega himself as well as the senior military officers of his regime.
“In addition to the arbitrary and unjust detentions, the Ortega regime prohibits the country’s main opposition parties from participating in the November elections. It also dissolved the legal registration of dozens of civil society groups in Nicaragua and banned respected international organizations from operating in the country ”, wrote the senators. “Ortega’s National Assembly has legalized arbitrary detention, enacted abusive legislation that restricts freedom of expression and the work of independent human rights organizations, continued its attacks on press freedom and ratified a new deal with Russia to censor the Internet. Taken together, these actions constitute a widespread authoritarian attack on Nicaraguan institutions and civil society.
Senators urged the Biden administration to condemn the upcoming November elections as illegitimate, consider suspending Nicaragua from the Organization of American States (OAS) and called for a review of Nicaragua’s participation in the free Dominican Republic-Central America Exchange (CAFTA-DR) an agreement. The letter also called for greater and sustained global attention to the situation in Nicaragua, including at the United Nations and the OAS.
Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Michael Bennet (D-CO) joined Cassidy and Menendez to sign the letter. John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
Find a copy of the letter here and below.
Dear Mr. Secretary,
We are writing to urge you to increase the pressure on the Ortega regime in Nicaragua and to prevent a further erosion of democratic norms and the rule of law in Nicaragua. The international community must take urgent action to stem one of the most severe repression campaigns in the Western Hemisphere since the military dictatorships of the 1980s. In the months to come, democratic actors in Nicaragua will need a strong support from the United States and its international partners in their quest for a peaceful return to democracy.
Since the end of May, the regime has imprisoned five opposition candidates in the legislative elections of November 2021: Arturo Cruz, Félix Maradiaga, Juan Sebastián Chamorro, Medardo Mairena and Miguel Mora. Two other suitors, Cristiana Chamorro and Noel Vidaurre, are under house arrest. Many of them are prosecuted for political reasons. In total, the regime holds at least 150 political prisoners, denying them due process and regular access to a lawyer and their families. On July 27, the regime jailed the former Nicaraguan foreign minister Francisco Aguirre-Sacasa, 77, on false charges of treason and without regard for his health. Aguirre-Sacasa and many others are being held at El Chipote detention center, a facility notorious for torture and other ill-treatment, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
In addition to arbitrary and unfair detentions, the Ortega regime bans the country’s main opposition parties from participating in the November elections. It also dissolved the legal registration of dozens of civil society groups in Nicaragua and banned respected international organizations from operating in the country. Ortega’s National Assembly has legalized arbitrary detention, enacted abusive legislation that restricts freedom of expression and the work of independent human rights organizations, continued its attacks on press freedom, and ratified a new deal with Russia to censor the Internet. Taken together, these actions constitute a widespread authoritarian attack on Nicaraguan institutions and civil society.
We welcome the steps you have taken to respond to Nicaragua’s slide towards authoritarianism, including the suspension of the visas of 150 people associated with the regime. We also applaud the European Union’s recent decision to freeze the assets and suspend the visas of Rosario Murillo and seven other regime officials on August 2. However, more needs to be done. We urgently need to use diplomatic channels to demand the immediate release of all political prisoners. Until their release, the Biden administration and our international partners must pressure the regime to allow political prisoners access to legal representation and humanitarian visits.
The administration has powerful tools, including the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Law (NICA) of 2018 and the measures defined under the Law on Strengthening Nicaraguan Membership under the Terms of the Law. on electoral reform (RENACER), which was passed by the Senate on August 6. Complete The implementation of the NICA law will send the Ortega regime a clear message: continued repression is unacceptable. As you assess the options, we encourage you to extend the sanctions to President Daniel Ortega and the ranks of the Nicaraguan military and its investment fund, the Instituto de Previsión Social Militar (IPSM).
We also urge you to coordinate with the Department of the Treasury to fully implement the provisions of the NICA Act on Investment Conditionality by providing advice to US executive directors of international financial institutions to oppose loan extensions or assistance that could benefit the regime’s officials, rather than providing the people of Nicaragua with the help it desperately needs. It is imperative that the US executive directors coordinate their approach to Nicaragua with other major donor countries.
The Ortega regime thrives on the lack of effective multilateral coordination. We call on you to encourage an international review and condemnation supported by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and relevant UN bodies. Unless the opposition presidential candidates are released from detention, their parties are re-registered, and they are jointly allowed to nominate an opposition presidential candidate to run in the November election, the United States should rally their partners in the Organization of American States (OAS) to support a resolution condemning the vote as illegitimate and to consider invoking Article 21 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter to suspend Nicaragua from the OAS.
Taken together, these steps can push Ortega to provide an opening for democratic change. However, if Ortega refuses to uphold the rule of law and human rights, we believe that a review of Nicaragua’s membership in the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR ) is necessary, as required by the agreement approved by the Senate. RENACER law. Please count on our full support in your efforts to help Nicaraguans restore their democracy.