Latin American Weekly Report

11/11/2021 - Ortega consolidates absolute control in Nicaragua

“Long unpopular and now without a democratic mandate, the [Daniel] Ortega and [Rosario] Murillo family now rule Nicaragua as autocrats, no different from the Somoza family that [they] fought four decades ago.” This was US President Joe Biden’s response to the 7 November general elections. These produced a victory for Ortega, in office since 2007, in a vote slammed as a “sham” and “undemocratic” given the exclusion of genuine opposition parties, incarceration of nearly 40 opposition figures (among them seven presidential contenders); the absence of credible observers; and Ortega’s control of all state institutions, including the electoral authority (CSE). The election marks the culmination of concerns regarding the dismantling of democracy in Nicaragua under Ortega which has intensified since a 2018 crackdown on opponents. The foreign response will be closely watched elsewhere in the sub-region such as El Salvador, where President Nayib Bukele’s authoritarianism has drawn concern, and Honduras, where democracy-related fears cloud the 28 November general election.

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