Opinion: Ortega’s terror is increasing. His legislators have expedited a new law that brands any peaceful government opponent as a 'terrorist'
Last week marked the 100th day of massive civic protests in the small Central American country of Nicaragua. Canadians should be alarmed by the rapid erosion of human rights in that country.
Since mid-April, human rights organizations reported that nearly 300 opponents of the government of Daniel Ortega have been killed by police and paramilitary gangs. The police and the gangs have been working jointly, co-ordinated by the party in power, the Sandinista Front for National Liberation. Several thousand citizens have been wounded or brutally beaten, and more than 2,000 people (800 of them in a single day) have been kidnapped, arbitrarily detained or unlawfully imprisoned (close to 200 remain disappeared). A crude network of torturers has sprung up around the country.
Canada has no strategic interests in Nicaragua, but it did provide some diplomatic support to the Cuban-trained and financed 1979 Sandinista Revolution and its president Daniel Ortega. An internationally supervised election forced Ortega out of power in 1990, bringing an end to 11 years of war and the economic chaos driven by failed predictably socialist market reforms.
The country managed to rebuild precariously liberal institutions while Ortega positioned himself for a return to power. He carefully negotiated “electoral reforms” that would eventually bring him back into power 18 years later. Such is the measure of the man’s patience and ability to play the long game.
Since then, Ortega has skillfully seized complete control of the key state institutions one by one: the electoral council, the auditor general, the army and the national police force, the legislative chamber (from which he evicted all lawfully elected opponents, replacing them with more agreeable ones), and finally the vice presidency (a role currently filled by his wife, Rosario Murillo). Patiently but thoroughly, Ortega twisted the constitutional framework and removed the bar against executive re-election, crushed the rule of law, removed international financial oxygen for independent NGOs, and with his massive wealth gobbled up nearly all of the independent press.
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