How the Ortega couple got hold of Nicaragua

By Frédéric Saliba

Posted today at 4:30 p.m.

Target of popular revenge, a dozen gigantic sculptures, baptized “trees of life” by the authorities, were shot down by a crowd of Nicaraguans demanding, in the spring of 2018, the end of the regime of President Daniel Ortega. At 20,000 dollars each, these metallic structures of all colors that have invaded the boulevards of Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, have become the symbol of the excesses of the former Sandinista guerrilla and his wife, Rosario Murillo, vice-president of this small Central American country, one of the poorest on the continent. Their slaughter had been stopped by a fierce repression which had made more than three hundred dead. Three and a half years later their twisted branches always light up at night, giving the decrepit city the air of the Throne Fair.

Protesters cut down a

Unboltable like these steel trees, the presidential couple persisted in all repressive measures to ensure their re-election on November 7 and to retain an absolutist and authoritarian power, far from the ideals of Sandinism. Police violence was followed by judicial harassment with the adoption, at the end of 2020, of freedom-killing laws. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) receiving international funds are now prohibited. In addition, the “Traitors to the fatherland” who “Compromise national sovereignty”, “Alter the constitutional order” Where “Incite foreign interference” face severe penalties. Thanks to this legal arsenal, the regime has engaged in a real hunt for opponents, thirty-nine of whom were put under lockdown in the months preceding the presidential and legislative elections.

Repressive escalation

The first victim of this new repressive escalation was Cristiana Chamorro, journalist and daughter of Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, former president of Nicaragua (1990-1997). Most popular of potential applicants opposition was arrested on June 2 at her home in Managua, where she has since been kept under house arrest after being accused, in particular, of “money laundering”. Even before the deadline for official submission of candidatures, August 2, six other opponents of Mr. Ortega were placed in detention, and two forced into exile.

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Apart from five small formations at the boot of the regime, the opposition parties were dissolved, leaving the field open to the ruling couple and their party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). This wave of arrests spared neither the journalists, nor the defenders of freedoms, nor the big bosses. Doctors who were alarmed by the management of the health crisis linked to Covid-19, downgraded by the regime, were harassed, or even forced to leave the country. “By beheading the opposition, Ortega imposed an electoral farce”, castigates sociologist Oscar René Vargas. This former Sandinista guerrilla, who knew Mr. Ortega well during the 1979 revolution, before severing all ties with him, avoided prison this summer by taking the road to exile, like more than 108,000 Nicaraguans since 2018 .

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How the Ortega couple got hold of Nicaragua