The Sandinista National Liberation Front, Nicaragua’s ruling party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front, passed a law preventing opposition candidates from running in the 2021 presidential elections.
The new law has granted Nicaragua's president Daniel Ortega and his government the power to unilaterally declare citizens “terrorists” or coup-mongers, classify them as “traitors to the homeland,” inhibiting candidates from running in the election.
Candidates “who lead or finance a coup…encourage foreign interference, ask for military intervention…propose or plan economic blockades, applaud and champion the imposition of sanctions against Nicaragua or its citizens,” are also banned from running for office.
Ortega has already labelled the entire opposition and the leaders of 2018 protests against the regime as "traitors".
At least 325 people were killed in anti-government protests in 2018 after security forces violently quelled demonstrations, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Ortega’s concerns include the opposition attempting to launch a coup.
Juan Sebastián Chamorro, leader of the opposition coalition Alianza Civica, contended that Ortega was culpable under the new law. He reportedly stated on social media that, “The one who they should apply this law to is Daniel Ortega, for all the human rights violations he has committed and the damage he has done.”
In response, the United States imposed sanctions on 27 people close to Ortega and his wife, including Vice President Rosario Murillo and three of her children, all aimed at bringing about free and fair elections and respect basic rights . The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control announced these sanctions against “corrupt financial operations and Ortega regime supporters.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) have called on member states of the Organisation of American states and the European Union to condemn the new legislation as it "threatens Nicarguans' rights to run for office an vote in fair and free elections."
The rights group highlighted that Nicaragua has passed several laws in recent months which "seriously restrict rights to freedom of expression and association in the country and could undermine free and fair elections in 2021."
The "foreign agents" law passed in October 2020 prevents people or groups that receive funds from abroad from intervening in domestic matters and also prevents them from running for public office.