President Ortega has renewed his country’s cooperation with Russia by inviting Russian military forces to train in Nicaragua. Therefore, the country’s authoritarian government has consistently had poor relations with the US, only getting worse by inviting Russia to their doorstep. Popularity for Ortega is low but he has destroyed any infrastructure to overthrow him and any form of protest is met with force.
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Key Judgement 1: Relations between Nicaragua and the US are likely to worsen over the next 6 months.
- The US has imposed sanctions and visa restrictions against President Ortega’s government. Ortega unlawfully arrested opposition politicians which undermines democracy in the country. [source]
- Ortega maintains an authoritarian regime where he quashes any opposition. Currently, the country holds 180 political prisoners who do not receive adequate medical care, nutrition or even sunlight causing international condemnation. [source]
- The US has refused to invite Ortega’s government to the Summit of the Americas because of Nicaragua’s undemocratic political regime. The US is still willing to neglect countries that do not match their ideologies, especially ones with close links to Russia. However, some states argue that without every American country, the Summit is no longer for the Americas. [source]
- The Summit of the Americas will address climate change, Covid-19 and how it affected the economy, social infrastructure, health, and education. A big concern raised at the Summit is the lack of equal access to economic, social, and political opportunities therefore placing a heavy burden on the more vulnerable countries. [source]
Key Judgement 2: It is highly likely Ortega will nurture his relationship with countries outside of the US’ sphere of influence over the next 6 months.
- Ortega has improved Nicaragua-Russia relations with military cooperation. New legislature allows Russian military forces to patrol Nicaragua’s Caribbean and Pacific coasts to combat drug trafficking. The initiative also invites 130 Russian military advisors to join the Nicaraguan forces to advise, train, and exchange experience. [source]
- China also has vested interest in improving relations with Nicaragua. Chinese company HKND funded a project to build an interoceanic canal through Nicaragua. Whilst the project failed due to economic restrictions, HKND still maintains legal concessions for development in the country. This includes other infrastructural projects in Nicaragua, including ports, roads, railways, and airports. [source]
Key Judgement 3: It is highly likely that Ortega’s regime will use force against political protests over the next 6 months.
- Protests began in 2018 when Ortega decreed social security reforms that raised taxes and decreased benefits. After five days and 30 deaths, Ortega cancelled the decrees, however, opposition against Ortega grew. Subsequently Ortega outlawed political demonstrations. [source]
- More protests led to the death toll rising to around 300 people, although the government figure was 198. Since 2018, Ortega has kicked out humanitarian monitoring agencies, cancelled media agencies, and has destroyed any infrastructure for opposing him. [source]
- Ortega’s re-election in 2018 sparked the end for optimism in Nicaragua. The government has shown its willingness to apply maximum punishment on those who speak out against Ortega’s regime. Anyone who advocates change in the government will meet the same fate.
- Ortega has been systematically destroying civil society. Ortega’s regime has shut down 400 non-government organisations because he cannot control them. He has turned his government into an authoritarian regime. [source]
Intelligence Cut-Off Date: 24th of June 2022