Nicaragua’s powerful ruling family spurns country’s opposition and seeks to consolidate control

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega won a fifth consecutive term in office Sunday, with just over 57 percent of the vote, according to the Central American Electoral Council. Ortega, who has led the country for 15 years, will now serve another eight years and cement his control over Central America’s main economy.

But members of Nicaragua’s largely opposition elite have gone to great lengths to undermine Ortega’s hold on power — sometimes threatening his longevity, as a report by Newsweek’s Daniel Stone reported.

“Nicaragua today is not stable,” Lorenzo Mendoza, a former banker, said as he addressed a crowd of supporters on Saturday. “It’s not healthy.”

The Independent Election Monitoring Group, a nongovernment organization that collects and verifies election results in Nicaragua, has also criticized Ortega for sidelining the opposition and including a rule that allows people who had sued the president during criminal proceedings to run. Ortega also secured a deal with Nicaragua’s powerful Catholic church to conceal up to 6,000 criminal convictions of government supporters.

The new president’s allies, though, have been more visible in national media. Ortega has taken to commanding the head of state broadcast network to give daily updates on his activities and plans.

Ortega and his deputy, Vice President Rosario Murillo, have also returned control over the nation’s airwaves to the Sandinista government. Ortega’s backers have attempted to make television stations loyal by switching top anchors. According to Stone, these changes have also shut down independent national media outlets.

Nicaragua’s opposition and its allies have also harshly criticized Ortega’s official stance on asylum seekers who flee the violence and instability facing the country, which has fueled the insecurity in recent years. Among those who have sought sanctuary in Nicaragua is prominent opposition leader Leopoldo López. According to The Guardian, several other individuals have also gained asylum from the government after fleeing that violence.

Madonna tweeted to wish López luck as he’s “standing in solidarity with his Nicaraguan brotherhood.”

The LGBT community has also protested against the government’s restrictions on gay men’s access to HIV testing. He submitted a legal motion in 2017 to have the law overturned. Despite the gains on LGBT issues in Nicaragua, the opposition has been emboldened by the lack of progress on other issues, including campaign finance reform and criminal justice reform.

Ortega has locked horns with his ruling class before — he once infamously called the Sandinista revolution “a war of internal exile” in his 2012 memoir, Dangerous Times. But despite a decade of rule, the president showed no signs of losing his grip on power as he faced intense pressure from critics. His credibility was also battered in the wake of a sexual abuse scandal in which he sexually harassed at least four female party members. After days of silence, he reportedly said that he would leave the party.

Read the full report at Newsweek.

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Ortega beats out his opponent to win fifth consecutive term in Nicaraguan presidency

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