Nicaragua 2021: Pandemic, police state and electoral farce

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The images below summarize this past year in Nicaragua, between pandemic, persecution of the opposition and elections without political competition.

By confidential

HAVANA TIMES – The year 2021 in Nicaragua has been marked by the ravages of a second wave of COVID and the resulting deaths. It was also marked by an escalation in police siege, including the imprisonment of opposition leaders. Finally, note the illegal searches in independent media, and an electoral farce by which Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo take on a new mandate in power.

Despite independent media persisting in warning the public of the need for social distancing, the government insisted on maintaining in-person classes in public schools. They also staged hundreds of crowd activity, despite the global alert for the Delta variant, which was three times more contagious than the original virus. Within months, COVID-19 infections and deaths skyrocketed.

Amid the public health crisis, the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health (Minsa) inaugurated maternal care centers, a diabetes center and a center for people addicted to alcohol and drugs. Not only did these bring people into close contact, but the buildings they were in had been illegally confiscated in 2018 from independent media. Confidential and Esta Semana, 100% News, and the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh).

The siege of the independent press has also intensified. The national police searched and confiscated the temporary site of Confidential and his television news Esta Semana. They also attacked and occupied the site of Nicaragua‘s oldest newspaper, La Prensa. The same police summoned media executives and journalists for questioning at the prosecutor’s office, as part of an investigation into the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro foundation for unproven allegations of money laundering.

In the past election year, Ortega manipulated terms to secure a fourth consecutive term. He used punitive laws, passed the previous year, to jail key opposition candidates; and he subsequently canceled the legal status of the two political parties that could have served as electoral vehicles for the opposition.

Between May and the end of November 2021, the regime added 67 new prisoners of conscience to its prisoner lists, including seven presidential candidates. They joined at least 100 political prisoners who were already locked up in the regime’s jails.

Among the presidential hopefuls detained were Cristiana Chamorro, Juan Sebastian Chamorro, Felix Maradiaga, Arturo Cruz, Miguel Mora, Medardo Mairena and Noel Vidaurre. In addition, the regime has locked up student leaders, journalists, political activists, business leaders and former diplomats.

With rising repression and selective detentions, at least 35,000 Nicaraguans have sought asylum since June in neighboring Costa Rica, according to Ana Quiros, an activist and human rights defender in that country.

Some 400 Nicaraguans have been stranded for more than 20 days at Panama‘s northern border, due to transit restrictions imposed by Costa Rica. Nicaraguans who worked in Panama were trying to return to Nicaragua after being left jobless by the closure of various businesses there, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Courtesy / Confidential
Despite warnings from Nicaraguan medical associations about the danger of a second wave of COVID-19, the Ministry of Education ushered in the 2021 school year with an emphasis on in-person instruction. Some 1.8 million students are enrolled in the public education system. The majority of classrooms had between 50 and 60 students on their lists. Photo: A public school, during their welcoming assembly on February 1, 2021 to launch the new school year.
Two and a half years after the military occupation of Confidential; the independent news channel 100% News; the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights; the Institute for Development and Democracy; the Center for Health Information and Advisory Services; and the Popular Na Foundation, the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, created and inaugurated maternity care homes, a diabetes care center and a center of attention for drug addiction and alcoholism in the buildings that ‘they had illegally confiscated these media and NGOs. Photo: A Nicaraguan special forces agent guards and controls access to the building initially confiscated from the media Confidencial and its television news program Esta Semana. February 24, 2021.
The Ortega regime’s police raided the recording studios of the independent TV news for the second time Esta Semana and Tonight, directed by journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro. The studios had been temporarily installed in a small space in the Invercasa Corporate Center, following the initial assault and confiscation of Confidential’s newsroom in December 2018. Cameraman Leonel Gutierrez, a member of the Esta Semana and Confidential, was illegally detained and interrogated for more than seven hours. Pictured: Ortega regime police officials carry computers and recording studio equipment to the site of independent online news programs Esta Semana and Esta Noche. May 20and.
Dozens of journalists and media executives have been summoned to the prosecutor’s office for an unsubstantiated investigation into the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation for alleged money laundering. Photo: Journalist Maria Lilly Delgado, correspondent for the Spanish-language news program Univision, with former employees of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, as they leave the prosecutor’s office. May 24.
Beginning in late May, the Ortega regime used a combo of punitive laws to imprison its seven potential presidential rivals. Among those arrested were presidential candidates Cristiana Chhamorro, Juan Sebastian Chamorro, Felix Maradiaga, Arturo Cruz, Miguel Mora, Medardo Mairena and Noel Vidaurre.
With seven leading presidential candidates jailed, including five members of the Citizens for Freedom Alliance (CxLA), the CxL party leadership has officially registered an alternative formula as presidential and vice-presidential candidates: l former Contra leader Oscar Sobalvarro and 2017 Miss Nicaragua, Bérénice Quezada. The attorney general then accused Quezada of “fomenting and inciting hatred and violence” and the electoral tribunal stripped the CxL party of its legal status. With no party supporting him, Sobalvarro resigned from the presidential race.
Photo: Berenice Sobalvarro, with Oscar Sobalvarro, during their registration as candidates for the CxL Party. July 28.
On August 12, the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa released its last print edition, as they ran out of newsprint to continue circulating nationally. The scarcity of paper was due to the customs office withholding their imports of paper and other raw materials.
Photo: A journalist offers the latest printed edition of La Prensa newspaper at a traffic light in Managua.
The following day, the National Police invested the installations of the La Prensa newspaper, supposedly due to an investigation by its editorial board for crimes of “customs fraud, money and asset laundering, harming the Nicaraguan state and society”. Simultaneously, they arrested Juan Lorenzo Holmann, the newspaper’s general manager.
Photo: A group of police closed the main gates of “La Prensa” to prevent independent media from entering to cover the takeover. August 13.
In March, the Ministry of Health began offering the first dose of the Covidshield vaccine to people over 50 and patients with chronic illnesses. However, only a few health centers were equipped. The results of this effort were hours of waiting and lots of people.
Photo: Elderly people wait their turn to receive the vaccine at the “Francisco Buitrago” health center. March 22.
When vaccinations were finally offered to everyone over 30, citizens lined up outside hospitals from the day before. They had to wait for hours in the hot sun to get shot.
Pictured: Queues stretched for miles outside the ‘Manolo Morales’ hospital to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. September 20.
The Honduran government has launched a vaccination campaign to apply a first dose of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to Nicaraguans living along the border regions. Thousands of citizens, mostly young people, formed long queues, waiting several hours to get vaccinated. Meanwhile, the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health has announced that it will offer young people doses of the Russian Sputnik Light and Cuban Soberana vaccines.
Photo: Nicaraguans line up in the border town of “San Marcos de Colon” ​​in Honduras to get vaccinated against COVID.
Between August and September 2021, there was a documented increase in COVID-19 deaths and infections. According to doctors, this second wave was more deadly than the first, which occurred between May and July 2020.
Pictured: A group of gravediggers in biohazard suits bury a COVID victim at the “Sierras de Paz” cemetery in early September.
November 7and, Nicaragua held its general elections amid massive abstentions. Sandinista supporters were transported to cast their ballots. Ortega’s third consecutive re-election took place against a backdrop of police persecution, with key opposition candidates jailed and the main opposition party stripped of its legality.
Photo: A citizen exercises her right to vote at the polling station set up in the Autonomous School of Esquipulas.
In an activity celebrating his fourth consecutive presidential term, Daniel Ortega devoted a lengthy, nationally broadcast speech to attacking the international community for condemning and refusing to recognize the voting process that took place on Sunday, November 7.and. Additionally, Ortega lashed out at the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and called political prisoners “sons of bitches of the imperialists.”
Ortega sways to the tune “The Commandante Stays” after his scathing speech attacking political prisoners. November 8. Photo of the Office of the President.
Brothers Laureano and Rafael Ortega Murillo, both sons of the ruling couple, met with representatives of the People’s Republic of China in a bid to restore diplomatic relations. In Nicaragua, a few hours earlier, Foreign Minister Denis Moncada had announced that Nicaragua was severing diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the most generous of its bilateral donors.
Laureano Ortega signs the restoration of diplomatic relations with China. December 10. Photo of the office of the presidency
The General Assembly of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of American States has approved a resolution declaring November 7and voting process “without legitimacy”. The text was approved by 25 countries out of a total of 34.
Photo: View of OAS officials during the organization’s General Assembly. Washington, November 12. Taken from the OAS website.

Read more about Nicaragua here on Havana Times.

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