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Illustration by Dulce Pop-Bonini

Is Nicaragua Turning Into a Dictatorship?

Nicaragua has been increasing restrictions on dissidents, including but not limited to imprisonment and stripping them of citizenship.

Mar 6, 2023

On Feb.9, Nicaraguan political prisoners were deported and sent on a plane to the U.S.. The Nicaraguan government, led by Daniel Ortega, subsequently stripped them of their citizenships despite a 1961 United Nations treaty that prohibits this act.
This is only the latest of several alleged attempts by the Ortega government to silence critics and dissidents over the past decade.
Ortega stepped to power in 1979, after the Somoza dictatorship was overthrown. Later on, in 1990, he lost an election with high voter turnout. 86 percent of registered voters had participated in the election.
In 2006, he managed to get re-elected as president — a position he holds to this day.
Since regaining power, the Ortega government has steadily restricted opposition and civilians’ freedom of expression. After a violent 2018 crackdown that left over 350 protesters dead at the hands of police and armed pro-government collectives, the government imprisoned opponents and passed new laws to restrict dissidence.
In 2022, over 2000 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) — including religious, medical, and women’s groups — were shut down. Many of those were justified by the regime under a 2020 “foreign agents” law. Other restrictive laws that have passed include a 2020 cybercrime law whichcriminalizes “false” information spread online that is “likely to spread anxiety, anguish, or fear”.
Hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans have fled the country since 2018. The U.S. Border Patrol has reported that about 111,000 Nicaraguans were detained at the border in 2022 alone.
According to Jan Simon, Chair of the Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua, the government is weaponizing State and justice systems against its citizens.
“Based on this investigation, we can conclude that widespread and systematic human rights violations that amount to crimes against humanity — and are motivated by political reasons — have been committed against civilians by the Nicaraguan Government since 2018,” said Simon in a statement to journalists.
The Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua presented their first report to the Human Rights Council on Feb. 24.
Sidra Dahhan is Managing Editor. Email her at
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