In Nicaragua, people are going to the ballot box for the presidential election today. But the outcome of the elections seems to be fixed already. Incumbent President Daniel Ortega will once again lead the Central American country now that he has silenced the opposition and pinned the main opposition members.
The former guerrilla Ortega, who ended the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza in 1979 with fellow combatants of the Sandinist National Liberation Front, then became the president for the fourth consecutive term. With his wife Rosario Murillo, who is also Vice President, at his side again.
“Everyone on the ballot is either the president or member of one of the parties so minuscule that they can‘t make a difference,” says Julienne Weegels in the NPO Radio 1 program With the Eye on Tomorrow. She is a researcher of the Center for Latin America Studies at the Uva. “Those parties are actually completely affiliated with Ortega.”
Only the turnout in the elections can give an indication of how great the resistance is against Ortega. From opposition circles have been called to go or not, or to cast an invalid vote.
Opposition in cell
The left-wing Ortega has been in power in the Central American country since 2007, after being the president between 1985 and 1990. In 2018, major social protests broke out against his reign, which he had to knock down with a hard hand.
Hundreds of people were killed in those protests. The numbers range from two hundred to five hundred. Since those protests, Ortega has had the country fully in its grip. In May and June this year, opposition members were arrested who were preparing for the elections.
A total of about forty opposition members, including seven presidential candidates were put in jail. “Both logical enemies and former allies have been locked,” says Weegels. “In fact, everyone who puts a straw in his way, he picked up in advance.”
But people from the business world and journalists are also stuck. According to Weegels, the country’s largest newspaper was halted in August after police raids. “That was the last medium that was still somewhat independent.” Foreign journalists are not allowed to enter the country to report.
The US Secretary of State Blinken called the election “a sham” and accused Ortega and his wife Murillo of setting up an “authoritarian dynasty”. The Americans, like the European Union, have imposed sanctions against individual headpieces of the regime.