Business Executives Arrested As Nicaraguan Government Crackdown Continues

Last Thursday, the Nicaraguan police force arrested two top executives from the country’s largest business alliance. These detainments follow a trend of similar events that precede the national elections on November 7th, where the current President Daniel Ortega is reported to be running for a fourth consecutive term. The two arrested earlier this week were Michael Healy, the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP) president, who was taken after an interview at the office of the attorney general, and Alvaro Vargas, the organization’s vice president, who was detained at his house. Accusations against them included money laundering and calls for international intervention and foreign sanctions against Nicaragua, according to Reuters. Both were members of the Civic Alliance, an oppositional faction that has already seen two of their presidential candidates arrested.

Nicaragua has been the subject of concern as their democratic systems are increasingly undermined and human rights abuses persist. “We are deeply concerned that Nicaragua’s chances of holding free and genuine elections on November [7th] are diminishing as a result of measures taken by authorities against political parties, candidates and independent journalists, which further restrict the civic and democratic space,” said Marta Hurtado, the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. “The continued harassment of independent media curtails the right to freedom of expression and undermines the public’s right to be informed, something that is crucial in any democracy at any time, but is of paramount importance during an electoral period.” Combined with additional humanitarian concerns that impair the country’s civil society, these arbitrary arrests are indicative of an insecure and dangerous situation.

The terror and decline of Nicaragua that has been perpetuated by Ortega’s government have left much of its populace ravaged by national crimes. Unjustified arrests and punitive measures against political opponents like the ones that occurred on Thursday have deconstructed the country’s democratic standing, with Amnesty International reporting attacks on the freedoms of expression and assembly running rampant in the nation. These abuses and violations cannot continue, as irreparable damage is being done to Nicaraguan civil structures and the rights of the citizens, women and especially indigenous peoples. Impunity for humanitarian crimes must not persist, and the government has to take responsibility for their offenses which occur in all facets of society—their unrestrained actions leave millions at risk.

Since 2007, when President Ortega’s administration entered office, both the nation’s democracy and society have been under constant assault as the government dismantles the barriers that limit them and the rights that protect the people. Multiple motions by the state courts have reduced political freedoms and allowed Ortega to run for office longer than is constitutionally permitted. Furthermore, Human Rights Watch detailed that in 2018, the National Police and pro-government groups engaged in a crackdown that left more than 300 dead and over 2,000 injured, while hundreds of others were subject to unjustified detainment and sentencing. Additionally, the government’s COVID-19 response was rampant with denial and a lack of responsibility, which included the refusal to acknowledge the virus or implement any public safety measures. The Freedom House group, which engages in research and produces reports on the status of international liberty, has marked Nicaragua as not free, as their score has dropped from previous years due to continued corruption, state repression, and violence.

Humanitarian concerns in Nicaragua have grown on a global scale while the government under President Daniel Ortega has repeatedly deprived the country of its democratic and civil rights. Any future progress must be supported on a systemic level, as a lack of critical foundations for the nation’s development will result in further deterioration of human rights and political structures. Without changes on a federal level to Nicaraguan judicial processes, legislation, and institutions, the country will risk collapse. International actors must encourage this process, but the only way lasting progress will be made to the restoration and creation of civil and political society is through internal transformations and advancements.