Nicaragua’s Controversial Laws Spark Fear of Widespread Political Persecution

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By LatAm Reports Editor

In Nicaragua, a series of laws enacted by the government of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo have sparked international concern over the suppression of dissent and the erosion of democratic norms. These laws, which have been described as tools for political persecution, are being used to target and punish anyone who challenges the regime or investigates corruption.

A report by the Center for Transdisciplinary Studies of Central America (CETCAM), a Costa Rica-based research institute, has highlighted this concerning trend. The institute’s director, Elvira Cuadra, emphasized that the Nicaraguan penal system is being misused as a political instrument to suppress rights and target those perceived as threats to the regime.

Key among the controversial laws is the Law for the Regulation of Foreign Agents (Law No. 1040), introduced in October 2020. This law labels all civil society organizations and individuals as foreign agents if they are seen as interfering in Nicaragua’s affairs. Critics argue that this law is a tool for repression, designed to silence opposition and control the populace.

Another significant piece of legislation is the Special Law on Cybercrimes (Law No. 1042), also introduced in October 2020. This law imposes strict controls on independent media and social network users, effectively acting as a mechanism for censorship and curbing freedom of expression.

The Legislative Assembly further compounded the situation in December 2020 by enacting the Law for the Defense of the People’s Rights to Independence, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination (Law No. 1055). This law brands anyone calling for foreign intervention or applauding sanctions as a traitor, a move that has been seen as a direct attack on freedom of expression and dissent.

Moreover, the Law of Reform and Addition to the Criminal Procedural Code (Law No. 1060), enacted in February 2021, grants judicial authorities the power to detain individuals for up to 90 days without charge. This law has been criticized for facilitating the persecution of a broad spectrum of society, including the political opposition, religious groups, civil society, and the academic community.

The impact of these laws has been profound. The Ortega-Murillo regime has reportedly closed around 3,000 non-governmental organizations, including numerous universities. This crackdown followed the 2018 protests, which resulted in approximately 300 deaths in clashes between regime opponents and supporters.

In a recent demonstration of the regime’s harsh tactics, Nicaraguan courts sentenced Bishop Rolando Álvarez to 26 years in prison and stripped him of his citizenship. Álvarez had refused to leave the country with other prisoners expelled to the United States.

These developments have raised alarm among international observers and human rights groups, who view them as a significant backslide in democratic freedoms and human rights in Nicaragua.