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US and Nicaragua dealt with 222 on Friday, how they may have backed the dictator

“For prisoners, it’s good. It’s bad for this country,” said Eddy Acevedo, a former Republican congressional official who has helped shape U.S. policy on Nicaragua for the past seven years. “Ortega expelled all opposition parties. What if this was repeated in other countries?”

The U.S. could continue or intensify its pressure campaign against Nicaragua, adding new sanctions, according to Biden administration officials. Yet the United States strives to protect and promote democracy not only in Nicaragua, but throughout Latin America. Peruvian and Brazilian democracies are in shambles. Relations with Mexico are strained. These diplomatic challenges for Washington come at a time when major global rivals China and Russia are making inroads into the region.

“We are already witnessing a troubling trend toward deliberate attacks on authoritarian and democratic institutions in Nicaragua’s neighbors. Guatemala etc. and El Salvadorsaid Rebecca Bill Chavez, a former senior Pentagon official in the Obama administration.

Nicaragua is a test case. Washington has gone to great lengths to undermine and destabilize the Ortega government, but he has fallen short of that goal – a situation that is likely being monitored by others in the region.

Some of the prisoners now released in America have called on the Biden administration to keep pressure on the dictatorship it wants to undermine from abroad.

“We weren’t the most important part of the story,” said recently released Nicaraguan presidential candidate Juan Sebastian Chamorro. There is no freedom, there is no democracy.”

bad relationships are poisonous

The U.S. and Nicaraguan left began to unravel more than a decade ago when it became clear Ortega, a former rebel who fought another Nicaraguan dictator, would not leave the presidency. The relationship soured as and Murillo stepped up their relationship.

Trump administration economic sanctions and other penalties imposed; In 2018, the year the regime brutally cracked down, it mostly targeted individuals like Murillo widespread protest.

June 2021, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told his Nicaraguan counterpart If Nicaragua can return to democracy and improve its human rights record, the US could ease these penalties. (Torture, extrajudicial executions and other abuses in Nicaragua) may constitute a crime against humanitya UN commission of inquiry said earlier this month.)

Blinken’s message couldn’t shake the ruling couple. Over the next few months, Ortega and Murillo imprisoned even more dissidents ahead of the elections.

The United States responded with a slap in the face Sanctions on state-owned mines in Nicaragua company and ban hundreds of visas Or Nicaraguan officials and their relatives.Biden also issued October order allowing his administration to impose future sanctions About Nicaragua’s different economic sectors, as well as trade and investment.

This was a big threat. in fact, circumvent trade agreements Between the United States, Nicaragua, and many other countries. The United States is Nicaragua’s largest trading partner.

easy operation

On January 31, Murillo called the US Ambassador to Nicaragua Kevin Sullivan and urged him to contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on issues that could improve relations.

Ten days later, 222 prisoners landed in the Washington area. Nicaragua asked for nothing in return, according to three of her U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

According to a senior National Security Council official, Biden’s aides thought it was easy to consider prisoners humane. Another senior NSC official said Mr. Biden was always kept informed. The NSC official, like other US officials cited, was allowed anonymity to describe sensitive foreign policy issues.

Multiple U.S. departments were involved in logistics, screening prisoners for safety risks, and preparing mental health services for those who might need them. They rejected a few people who were on the original list of 228. Denied travel to US, including Catholic bishop Rolando Alvarez.

Biden administration officials knew Ortega and Murillo would benefit from distanced themselves from their rivals. However, the opposition parties were unable to do much within Nicaragua.

One of the prisoners said he was awakened by security early in the morning on February 25. 9 And told to be dressed and ready in 10 minutes, the prisoner and his fellow detainees boarded a bus with windows covered with bars and wood. They were told to keep their heads down and their mouths shut.

Towards the end of the expedition, the bus guard handed the prisoners papers to sign. Some inmates hesitated to sign dark, barely visible forms. A security guard told them they couldn’t leave the country without signing. That was the first clue that many prisoners could be released soon.

As the prisoners were unloaded from the bus, they were seen on the airport tarmac next to a huge plane. “There was a box on the tarmac with passports for all of us, new Nicaraguan passports,” said the former prisoner, who was allowed to remain anonymous in Nicaragua to protect his family. “This was quite an operation.”

look for cracks

The release of prisoners could be a sign of discord within the ruling class.a The video is said to be from late December It appeared to indicate Ortega and Murillo split up after a disagreement, fueling ongoing speculation about a rift between the pair. seemed to suggest that the idea came from his wife.

Last spring, Laureano Ortega, the child who was considered the most likely heir to the ruling couple, was born. reached out to US officials The lifting of sanctions also raised questions about the potential for increased tensions within Nicaragua’s elite. This all happens amid speculation that Daniel Ortega’s health is deteriorating and a clear lack of clarity about how loyal his supporters are to his wife.

Ortega and Murillo were once leaders of the Sandinista rebel movement that helped overthrow the dictatorship of Nicaragua’s Somoza family dynasty. Today, they’ve turned into what they once hated, say their critics.

After the Nicaraguan government stripped the exiled dissidents of their citizenship, at least one of them also has American citizenship. 94 other people were also stripped Or a Nicaraguan passport. Many of the latter are activists living abroad.

Limits of U.S. Power

Recent actions by the administration have prompted countries such as Spain, Argentina and Chile to offer citizenship to those affected. U.S. officials, meanwhile, argued that the regime squandered goodwill by releasing the prisoners.

Still, America’s options in Nicaragua are limited.

Rising sanctions pressure could damage Nicaragua’s economy and exacerbate the hemisphere’s migration crisis.

Ortega and Murillo also have other options for international assistance: Russia and China. The regime supported Russia’s war in Ukraine and allowed Russia to deploy troops and military equipment in the country. In late 2021, Nicaragua switched diplomatic recognition leave Taiwan and support Beijinginto Chinese soup.

Hawkish figures such as former Trump administration national security adviser John Bolton have called Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela “troika or tyranny” for their repressive rule. The United States has taken particularly tough measures against each, with little success.

Cuba’s communist regime has survived decades of US sanctions. Biden has yet to embrace the brief diplomatic flowering of his relationship with Havana, which began under then-President Barack Obama and ended by then-President Donald Trump.

Nicolas Maduro’s government in Venezuela has also weathered years of sanctions and other US pressure.US-backed opposition efforts to overthrow Maduro Mostly failed in the last 6 monthsand the dictator looks safe.

Some of Nicaragua’s former prisoners are already in touch with each other and are considering uniting around a common platform to oppose the exiled Ortega and Murillo. “This is one of the mistakes Ortega made. He brought us closer,” said former presidential candidate Chamorro.

But diaspora-led opposition movements are rarely successful, says Christopher Sabatini, Latin America analyst at Chatham House.

Such campaigns “do not direct resources, they do not direct diplomatic legitimacy…they are often very nasty,” Sabatini said. There will be no mass uprising to overthrow the throne.No way.There is no one to lead it.”

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