In a rare television interview, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega went on Fox News to denounce the violence in his country which international observers and Human Rights Groups have blamed on his administration.
Ortega, a Sandinista revolutionary hero and president of Nicaragua for three terms has been facing nationwide protests which began in April. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, but he has rejected this demand and refused to step down.
Despite clear evidence to the contrary, Ortega has also denied that peaceful demonstrations had been targeted. “Not a single one of the peaceful protests was attacked,” he said. According to Human Rights Groups such as Amnesty International more than 300, of which the majority are young demonstrators shot by security forces and pro-government paramilitaries.
Amnesty International released a detailed report at the end of May 2018 on the violence between anti-government demonstrators were being targeted by pro-government militias and paramilitaries. The report, among others, was heavily criticised as a fabrication by the Nicaraguan government and denounced as biased foreign interference in Nicaragua’s sovereign affairs.
During a pro-government rally in the capital city of Managua Ortega on July 19th, Ortega claimed these paramilitaries were bank rolled by Drug Cartels, The Catholic Church, and political rivals as part of a US-backed conspiracy to topple him.
Some Nicaraguan government officials are also currently under US sanctions, and Nicaragua has stated that it will not accept any US sanctions. During a conference call with journalists in early July, a senior US administration official said that “The Nicaraguan government’s violent response has included beatings of journalists, attacks against local TV and radio stations, and assaults on mothers mourning the deaths of their children.”
In 2017, the US Congress passed the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act (NICA) which would have directed the President to instruct the U.S. Executive Director at each international financial institution to use U.S. influence to oppose any loan for the government of Nicaragua’s benefit, other than for basic human needs or to promote democracy, unless the Department of State certifies that Nicaragua is taking effective steps to:
Hold free elections overseen by credible domestic and international electoral observers. Promote democracy and an independent judicial system and electoral council. Strengthen the rule of law. Respect the right to freedom of association and expression. Combat corruption, including investigating and prosecuting government officials credibly alleged to be corrupt, and protect the right of political opposition parties, journalists, trade unionists, human rights defenders, and other civil society activists to operate without interference.
‘Irrational, offensive, harmful to the human rights of Nicaraguans, and a violation of Nicaragua’s sovereignty’ was the Nicaraguan government’s official reaction. The bill was also seen by a majority of Nicaraguans, including in the opposition press, as more harmful to the people than to the government it sought to rebuke. The NICA Act however never made it past the U.S. Senate in 2017, and continues to languish in 2018.