This week marks more than a month of popular protests in Nicaragua that have been met with violent repression from the government and its police. Demonstrations that started over President Daniel Ortega’s proposals to cut pensions have morphed into popular, broad-based demands for the president to step down, largely in response to the government’s violent reaction to protests, including through the militarily armed Sandinista Juventud, that has led to more than80 deaths and 900 wounded.
In early April protests flared over the government’s inept response to a massive wildfire that torched thousands of acres in one of Nicaragua’s protected areas.
Daniel Ortega helped lead the Sandinista revolution that toppled the decades-long dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza. But the former guerrilla leader is now in the 12th consecutive year of his second presidency after serving as president from 1985 to 1990. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is set to visit Nicaragua in the coming weeks to report on the human rights conditions in the country. The last time the IACHR visited the country was during the Somoza years; yes, the same repressive government that Ortega overthrew. The Organization of American States’ General Assembly this June in Washington, DC, will likely add more international pressure. One possibility is the expansion of U.S. sanctions on government officials under the Magnitsky Act. Last December, under the Magnitsky Act, the U.S. formally applied sanctions on Roberto Rivas, the head of Nicaragua’s election commission, over corruption allegations.
In the worse of cases, the escalating protests and loss of human life could escalate and provoke a broader humanitarian crisis. For the country, its citizens and the region, much hangs on how Ortega will respond to mounting international