Nicaragua votes in elections panned as 'parody' by international observers

According to Nicaraguan state media, voters turned out throughout the nation to forged their ballots for president and members of the nationwide meeting. “Massive participation in all the municipalities,” reported government-run outlet El 19 Digital, which described lengthy traces carried out in “order, peace and tranquility.”

However, a number of Nicaraguans interviewed by CNN painted a unique image.

“Going to vote is a joke,” a high-ranking clergy member of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua advised CNN by textual content message. “The people are fearful and locked in their houses.”

“A lot of the people I know are not leaving their homes,” stated one other Nicaraguan within the metropolis of Granada, asking to stay nameless for security causes. Driving by means of city, the streets and polling stations he noticed had been empty, he added.

People wait in line to vote during Nicaragua's general election, at a polling station in Managua on November 7.

During a press convention alongside Murillo within the capital Managua on Sunday, Ortega described voter participation as a “vote for peace.”

“We have a right, as Nicaraguans, to open investigations against terrorists and defend the peace,” he additionally stated, apparently defending the handfuls of arrests of presidency critics that had preceded the election.

An empty area

At least half a dozen probably presidential contenders had been detained forward of the vote, clearing Ortega’s path to a different 5 years in workplace. Though 5 different presidential candidates had been listed on the ultimate poll Sunday, none are seen as sturdy challengers.

Among the arrested had been former candidate and journalist Cristiana Chamorro Barrios (whose mom defeated Ortega on the polls in 1990); her cousin, the economist Juan Sebastián Chamorro García; former diplomat Arturo Cruz; political scientist Félix Maradiaga; journalist Miguel Mora Barberena; and rural labor chief Medardo Mairena Sequeira.

Dozens of different distinguished critics and opposition leaders had been additionally detained and investigated for alleged nationwide safety considerations, in response to Nicaraguan legislation enforcement — strikes that a lot of the worldwide group has criticized as political repression.

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Furthering considerations that the deck was stacked in favor of the present President and his occasion, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), the nation’s Ortega-aligned electoral council had restricted campaigning and the eligibility of political events — creating what the Organization of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro described in May as “the worst possible circumstances for an electoral process.”
Misinformation and the manipulation of social networks have emerged as one other potential contaminant within the electoral course of. Facebook final week stated it had eliminated a troll farm of greater than 1,000 Facebook and Instagram accounts backed by the federal government, Reuters reported. The accounts had been working to amplify pro-government content material, in response to the information company.
Throughout all of it, the specter of Covid-19 has loomed over the vote. Though the nation has officially counted fewer than 20,000 circumstances and simply 209 deaths for the reason that begin of the pandemic, well being specialists say the fact could possibly be extra extreme than reported. According to the Pan American Health Organization, lower than 20% of Nicaragua’s inhabitants has been vaccinated.
Nicaraguan citizens exiled demonstrate in San Jose, Costa Rica, November 7, 2021.

‘A parody of an election’

The Ortega authorities’s ways to stifle competitors have prompted condemnation from democratic governments and members of the Nicaraguan diaspora all over the world.

“What Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, orchestrated today was a pantomime election that was neither free nor fair, and most certainly not democratic,” US President Joe Biden said in a statement Sunday that referred to as on the ruling pair to launch detained political dissidents.

At a protest within the Costa Rican capital San José, dozens of demonstrators dressed up as clowns to point their declare the elections in Nicaragua had been a “circus.” “This is fraud. I’m dressed as a clown because this vote is a joke,” one feminine protester, who didn’t establish herself as a result of worry of repercussions, advised CNN en Español.

In Miami, Florida, protesters carried blue and white Nicaraguan flags and indicators studying “no to electoral fraud” in Ruben Dario Park, named after the Nicaraguan poet.

And in Madrid, Spain, protesters gathered exterior the nation’s congressional constructing carrying a big signal studying “Nicaragua: justice and liberty,” demanding the outcomes of the vote be rejected.

Nicaraguan citizens exiled in Costa Rica demonstrate in San Jose, Costa Rica, November 7, 2021.

Regional governments have lengthy voiced concern over the Ortega regime’s crackdown over the previous yr. Following a wave of arrests this summer time, Mexico and Argentina recalled their ambassadors for consultations, citing “worrying legal actions by the Nicaraguan government.”

At a November 3 assembly about a new report on Nicaragua’s political repression by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, US consultant Bradley Freden described the Nicaraguan election as “nothing more than a sham.”

“The event that’s about to take place on November 7 is a parody of an election,” echoed Canadian consultant Hugh Adsett.

A day earlier, on November 2, the European Union’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, described Nicaragua’s election as so “completely fake” that it might not be price sending impartial observers.

“We are not going to send any electoral observation mission there because Mr. Ortega has taken care to imprison all the political contenders who have stood in these elections,” Borrell stated, talking in Lima, Peru.

Both the European Union and United States have imposed sanctions on senior Nicaraguan officers, together with members of the Ortega-Murillo household. The United States can also be poised to levy further punitive financial measures after Sunday’s vote.

Ortega and Murillo’s tightening grip on energy

Ortega got here to energy as a part of the Sandinista rebels who overthrew the Somoza dynasty in 1979, and fought towards the US-backed Contras throughout the Nineteen Eighties. First elected in 1985, he has since demolished Nicaragua’s presidential time period limits, permitting him to run again and again.

Increasingly, nevertheless, Ortega has retreated from the general public eye, with weeks and even months passing between appearances. His spouse, Rosario Murillo, is now the acknowledged face and voice of the administration, with an idiosyncratic each day radio broadcast.

Over the years, the pair have inexorably consolidated energy, appointing loyalists to prime authorities roles and exerting an more and more tight grip on the nation’s social and political spheres. Local press describe a local weather of worry and intimidation.

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“They’re fearful of losing their grip on power,” stated Julie Chung, the appearing Assistant Secretary for the US Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, in June. “As such, that fear of democracy, I think, has contributed to triggering these kinds of actions, repressive actions, because they have no confidence in their own ability to have the people support them.”

Anti-government protests in 2018, sparked by uproar over a plan to pare down the nation’s social safety applications, supplied a putting instance of the federal government’s intolerance for dissent.

Pro-government armed teams arbitrarily detained a whole lot of members, attacked church buildings and universities the place demonstrators had been regarded as hiding, and allegedly blocked the injured from accessing medical care.

At least 322 folks had been killed then, in response to rights teams, with 1000’s injured and a whole lot detained. At the time, UN human rights specialists accused the federal government of human rights violations towards protesters. Ortega stated the UN report was “nothing more than an instrument of the policy of death, of the policy of terror, of the policy of lying, of the policy of infamy.”

Hundreds of protesters and activists are believed to nonetheless be detained, in response to a report by the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights in February, and greater than 100,000 Nicaraguans have fled the nation, in response to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Anti-government protests had been subsequently banned. Even waving the nation’s flag in public — a key image of the 2018 demonstrations — was criminalized.

Today, civic participation feels pointless, one younger girl advised CNN on Sunday.

“Years ago during elections, there were lines at the polls and people wanted to participate,” she stated. Though she had boycotted the vote, she identified that others in Nicaragua are usually not free to do even that, with authorities workers below specific scrutiny.

“My father works for the state and if he doesn’t vote, he’ll be fired. It’s a way to force people to vote, it’s not voluntary,” she stated.

Her solely hope is to depart the nation, she added. “I don’t see a future here. Unless Daniel Ortega and that woman die, nothing will change. There is no life here.”

Previous reporting contributed by CNN’s Flora Charner, Taylor Barnes, Claudia Rebaza, and Matt Rivers.

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