Against the grain of the main Western democracies, the PT (Workers’ Party) released a note on Monday night (8) hailing the Nicaraguan elections that confirmed the permanence of dictator Daniel Ortega in power.
In the text, the caption classifies the election as “a great popular and democratic manifestation” and says that the result confirms “the population’s support for a political project whose main objective is the construction of a socially just and egalitarian country”.
Along with his wife, Rosario Murillo, who formally holds the position of deputy, Ortega competed for command of the country against five other candidates — all part of the front-line election theater, as they are allies of the government. Over the past six months, the regime has arrested another seven opposition postulants, accused of money laundering and treason.
Among them are Cristiana Chamorro, daughter of former president Violeta Chamorro, who defeated Ortega in 1990; Miguel Mora, founder of the 100% Notícias channel, expropriated by the regime; and former ambassador Arturo Cruz. Also detained are 32 other political opponents and more than 100 trade unionists, journalists and human rights activists.
The election also did not have international observers, who, in the view of the local justice, aligned with the regime, could intervene in the process. Few foreign journalists were able to enter the country, and independent local vehicles, such as the website El Confidencial, which had been banned from operating in recent months, reported on the election from Costa Rica.
The PT, in the note, also highlighted that Ortega’s victory occurred “despite several attempts to destabilize the government and the international blockade against Nicaragua and its current government.”
Upon taking office, US President Joe Biden upheld sanctions imposed by his predecessor, Donald Trump, which include fines and barring entry into the country of senior officials of the regime and family members of the dictator.
After re-election, the Democrat called Managua’s election a farce and said his government and the international community must use “diplomatic and economic tools” to help the Nicaraguans and hold Ortega and Murillo accountable.
He is expected to sign an arsenal of measures, based on the Renascer law, to increase pressure on Ortega’s government. The situation in Nicaragua will still be debated at the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), which may suspend the country from the regional bloc. Analysts warn, however, that isolation will worsen the socioeconomic situation and trigger a further increase in migration.
Like the US, the European Union adopted a similar tone and stated in a statement that the elections “lack legitimacy” and “complete the conversion of Nicaragua into an autocratic regime”. The Spanish government considered the electoral process a “scorn” and Costa Rica declared that it does not recognize the result of the elections.
On Monday, Ortega reacted to the criticisms of the US and EU, classifying them as “imperialist Yankees”. “They want to be above the Supreme Electoral Council […] counting the votes of the Nicaraguans,” the dictator said in a speech lasting more than an hour. “This will never happen in Nicaragua. Never again.” Of his imprisoned opponents, he said they “are not Nicaraguans, they have no homeland.”
The country’s leader, on the other hand, has the support of Nicolás Maduro’s regime in Venezuela —also supported by the PT—, who congratulated the ally. Russia, on the other hand, called the challenges of Western countries inadmissible. “As far as I know, when the vote ended, the White House declared its refusal to recognize the election and called on other countries to do the same. We consider this inadmissible and we strongly condemn such a policy,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
According to official results, the former Sandinista leader won 76% of the votes, consolidating his permanence in the position he has held uninterruptedly since 2007. Ortega now dominates, in addition to the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary. In addition to him, this Sunday’s election named 90 members of the National Assembly. As reported by the daily La Prensa, there were apprehensions in the early hours of Sunday by members of the opposition parties Aliança Cidadã and Coalizão Internacional.
Repression against critics intensified in 2018, when more than 300 protesters were killed in clashes with security forces and paramilitary groups aligned with the dictator. Although the regime reached an agreement with the opposition the following year, promising free elections, the pact was not fulfilled.
In a first position on the dictatorship, made in August of this year, former president Lula defended a change in the country’s command. In an interview with Mexican TV, the PT member said that “in Nicaragua, it would be good to have an alternation of power”. “I told the [Hugo] Chavez, told the [Alvaro] Uribe: every time a ruler starts to think he is irreplaceable and starts to think he is indispensable, a bit of dictatorship is emerging in that country.”
He also advised Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega not to “give up” democracy. “If I could give Daniel Ortega advice, I would give him and any other president. Don’t give up democracy. Don’t stop defending the freedom of the press, communication, expression, because that’s what favors democracy.” , told journalist Sabrina Berman, of Canal Onze de México.
Asked by the Mexican journalist about what he thought of Nicaragua, “a model of the left that destroys democracy”, according to her, Lula replied: “It has been ten years since I have had contact with Nicaragua, I do not know very well what is happening there. But I have information that things are not going well there,” he said.