Managua (AFP) – Daniel Ortega was sworn in as President of Nicaragua on Monday for a fourth consecutive term as the EU and US tightened sanctions over the contested elections held in November with all of his opponents in jail.
“Yes, I swear,” strongman Ortega said as he and his wife Rosario Murillo, who was re-elected vice president, were sworn in at a ceremony attended by the presidents of Cuba and the United States. Venezuela and envoys from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and Syria, among others.
Even before the event began, the European Union announced new sanctions against people it accuses of “undermining democracy” and human rights abuses in Nicaragua, including Ortega’s daughter and son. , both presidential advisers.
Other people sanctioned “because of the worsening situation in Nicaragua” were senior police and electoral officials in the country, the EU said.
In Washington, the US Treasury imposed sanctions on six regime officials, including two generals, the defense minister, the head of the Supreme Electoral Council, and telecommunications regulator officials, who allegedly ran a troll farm on the networks. social services to help Ortega.
Travel restrictions have been imposed on 116 people linked to the regime, including mayors, prosecutors, security officials and universities “complicit in undermining democracy,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a press release.
In her inaugural speech, Ortega, 76, mocked the sanctions, calling them a “decoration” for Brenda Rocha, the president of the electoral council, who was one of the officials sanctioned.
Russia and China
In the months leading up to the November 7 vote, Nicaraguan authorities arrested nearly 40 opposition figures, including seven presidential candidates, securing victory for longtime leader Ortega.
As the international community rained down on opprobrium and sanctions against Ortega, he sought to improve relations with economic giants China and Russia.
Managua transferred diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing, in return for which China reopened its embassy in the Central American country and donated thousands of coronavirus vaccines.
Moscow, in response to Managua’s mobilization, supplied the country with wheat, vaccines and even buses for public transport.
A scorching Marxist in his youth, Ortega ruled Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990, after leading a guerrilla army that overthrew US-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza.
Returning to power in 2007, he was re-elected three times, becoming increasingly dictatorial and overturning presidential term limits.
Ortega, with Murillo on his ticket, garnered 75 percent of the vote in November.
The election took place without independent international observers and most foreign media were denied entry into the country.
The Nicaraguan parliament is dominated by Ortega’s allies, who also control the judicial and electoral bodies.
Days before the election, Facebook announced the closure of a Nicaraguan government troll farm broadcasting anti-opposition messages.
In addition to Rocha, the head of the Supreme Electoral Council, the European Union also imposed sanctions on the deputy head of the council and on a senior official who was acting head in 2018.
The country’s telecommunications company has also been listed for its attempt to “silence independent media” and disseminate “disinformation”.
US President Joe Biden called the vote a “sham” and the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) said it was “not free, fair or transparent.”
While the sanctions were announced almost immediately by the US, EU, Canada and Britain, Russia attacked the West for failing to recognize the results.
“We consider this unacceptable and strongly condemn such a position,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in November.
The US State Department said the Ortega regime still held 170 political prisoners.
They include some 120 people who participated in anti-government protests in 2018 that were brutally suppressed, killing more than 300 and sending more than 100,000 people into exile, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Ortega insists that the imprisoned are criminals and “terrorists” seeking to overthrow him with the help of the United States.
Dozens of Nicaraguan exiles demonstrated in neighboring Costa Rica on Sunday against the inauguration of Ortega.
The protest took place on the same day that Nicaragua’s new parliament, also elected in November and dominated by the left-wing Sandinista National Liberation Front of Ortega, was officially opened.
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