MANAGUA, Nicaragua – The ruling Congress of Nicaragua’s ruling party on Monday passed a law effectively banning opposition candidates from running in the 2021 presidential election.
The law allows President Daniel Ortega’s government to unilaterally declare citizens “terrorists” or coup plotters, classify them as “traitors to the homeland” and ban them from running as candidates.
Given that Ortega has already applied these terms to virtually the entire opposition, the leaders of the mass protests against his regime, the law passed on Monday seems intended to reverse Ortega’s last resort to his almost eternal rule over the Central American nation.
The law prohibits “candidates leading or financing coups … encouraging foreign interference, requesting military intervention … proposing or planning economic blockades, applauding, defending the imposition of sanctions on Nicaragua or its citizens.”
The United States has so far imposed sanctions on about 27 people close to Ortega կնոջ his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, including Murillo և Ortega himself and his three children. The sanctions are aimed at holding free elections.
According to the law, the people appointed by Ortega “will become traitors to the homeland, so he may not run for public office.” Betrayal is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Opposition leader Juan Sebastian Chamorro, the leader of the opposition coalition, wrote that Ortega should be the first person to be banned by the new law.
“The person for whom they must apply this law is Daniel Ortega, for all the human rights violations he has committed and the damage he has done,” Chamorro wrote on his social media accounts.
The election is scheduled for November 7, 2021, and despite the time limit that Ortega has already exceeded, the 75-year-old leader will run again.
Ortega initially ruled Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990 after the Sandinista Revolution, which overthrew the Somoza dictatorship but lost the 1990 presidential election.
He returned to the presidency after three failed election attempts in 2007 and was re-elected in 2011. He then bypassed the deadlines for re-election in 2016, և convened courts with allies և state bodies. His Sandinista party oversees the courts and the legislature.
Seventy Sandinista lawmakers voted in favor of the bill Monday, while 14 opposition lawmakers voted against it, arguing that it violates the Constitution’s guarantee of citizens’ political rights.
At least 325 people were killed in anti-government protests in 2018, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. From April 2018, Nicaragua’s economy collapsed due to riots that lasted nearly five months, initially sparked by cuts in social security benefits, but quickly turned into Ortega’s calls to resign or allow snap elections.
Nicaragua’s two main opposition groups announced earlier this year that they would form a coalition to run in the 2021 race. Neither the Civic Alliance for Justice, Democracy, nor the Blue and White National Unity Movement are among Nicaragua’s political parties. Both were formed after the civil unrest in April 2018.
The US Office of Foreign Assets Control regularly announces sanctions against “corrupt financial operators’s supporters of the Ortega regime.” This move blocks US officials’ assets and prohibits US citizens from engaging in them. The US government says Ortega is pushing for free, fair elections and respect for fundamental rights.
On Monday, the office announced sanctions against three other Ortega government officials, including the vice-president of the Supreme Court, the Sandinista legislature, and the country’s police chief.
Ortega said on Friday that those who support the sanctions are “not Nicaraguan.”
“I do not know how they think they are going to run in the election,” Ortega said. “They are terrorists, criminals and traitors, as they continue to demand more sanctions.”