Ortega assumes fourth term in Nicaragua as US and EU impose sanctions

A man walks past a mural showing Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega before the swearing-in ceremony after being re-elected for a fourth consecutive term, in Managua, Nicaragua. January 7, 2022. REUTERS / Maynor Valenzuela

Jan 10 (Reuters) – Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega assumed his fourth consecutive term on Monday, hours after the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on various figures in his government after an election that Washington has called a “farce.”

Ortega won the November 7 election after most of his political opponents were jailed, prompting widespread condemnation. The president of the United States, Joe Biden, called the elections a “pantomime” and accused the former Marxist guerrilla and adversary of the United States during the Cold War of growing authoritarianism.

Most western and regional nations shunned the inauguration ceremony Monday night, though left-wing leaders such as Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and Cuban President Miguel Díaz Canel flew in to show their support.

China, which recently established diplomatic ties with Nicaragua, also sent a delegation.

In a measured speech, focused primarily on the history of the Sandinista rebellion against former US-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza, Ortega promised to continue “sowing hope and roads” for the Nicaraguan people.

But Ortega’s opponents say the leader now presides over a government similar to Somoza’s, which was toppled by Ortega’s Sandinista guerrilla in 1979.

Former Costa Rican president Laura Chinchilla called him a “dictator” and said he was “isolated from the world.” “Today Daniel writes his own epitaph believing that it is his inauguration,” he wrote on Twitter.

In the past, Ortega has denied allegations of electoral fraud and that there are political prisoners in his country, assuring that the United States and those who criticize him only seek to destabilize his government.

In coordinated action, the United States and the European Union announced new sanctions on Monday against Ortega government officials and family members, including his wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo.


The crisis in Nicaragua, which began in 2018 after the violent crackdown on a wave of anti-government protests, has forced tens of thousands to seek a better future abroad. In 2021, Costa Rica received a record 53,000 refugee applications from Nicaraguans.

Since the weekend, dozens of Nicaraguan exiles have held a vigil in San José to raise their voices against Ortega’s re-election.

“The Nicaraguan exile sees this date as a day of darkness and despair. Today we hoped to see the dream of bringing to power a democratic government and defender of institutionality and human rights, come true,” said Álvaro Leiva, an activist in exile in Costa Rica since 2018.

“However, this gives us one more impulse to continue fighting from exile, where more and more compatriots continue to leave, because emigration does not stop,” he added.

Despite internal reactions to the contrary, Mexico joined the small list of Nicaraguan allies who were present at the inauguration of Ortega and Murillo, which included, in addition to Cuba, Venezuela and China, North Korea, Iran, Russia, Syria.

“It is a victory not only for Nicaragua, it is a victory that also has enormous significance for the forces of the left and for the progressive governments of Latin America and the Caribbean,” said the Cuban leader upon reaching Nicaraguan soil.

However, the leftist leaders of Bolivia, Luis Arce, and Peru, Pedro Castillo, did not announce their presence. Neither did the president-elect of Chile, Gabriel Boric.

(Report by Raúl Cortés Fernández and Diego Oré in Mexico City; Additional report by Álvaro Murillo in San José)


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