Nicaragua Notes - November 2023
I'm sorry, but it's nothing but bad news.
Nicaragua's Vice President and First Lady Rosario Murillo has taken a new interest in the judiciary in recent weeks. Over 900 people have been dismissed from the judicial system from local administrative personnel to high-ranking court justices. At least some of those who were fired, including loyal FSLN party members, have also been imprisoned, many in poor or abusive conditions. It's an enormous purge of personnel that points to further consolidation of the dictatorship. Daniel Ortega and his family are ensuring that no hints of dissent or checks on the president's power remain.
On top of that, a few other articles from Confidencial caught my attention this week.
First, there are updates on the products that will be covered under new China-Nicaragua free trade agreement. The FTA was negotiated and signed by Ortega's son and early indications are that the increased business with Beijing will help the family more than the country.
Second, Nicaragua is on track to export a record amount of gold this year in spite of US sanctions against the country's gold sector. An article published back in September demonstrated that Ortega's regime is exporting more gold than the country produces, suggesting that not only is Nicaragua evading sanctions, but it is doing so at such a level that the country is becoming a source of gold laundering for other countries that have sanctioned mineral companies and sectors.
Finally, AP and Miami Herald recently reported on Nicaragua using Haitian migrants as "weapons" to try to place pressure on the US. There are instances around Central America right now of countries that appear to be facilitating or benefitting from Haitian migration, but many of those other instances can at least be partially explained by an attempt to regularize what is a difficult challenge. Nicaragua's case is unique in that they aren't just making the flow of migrants easier, but they are actively promoting greater migration towards the US and profiting in the process.
Nicaragua officially leaves the OAS this month. On the rank order of crises around the hemisphere, it's not at the top of the list for most people or organizations. There aren't clear future pivot points such as an upcoming election where the international community can apply pressure. Ortega is winning by keeping the pressure up on any potential opponents and giving minimal space for anyone domestically or internationally to push back against him. That makes the country's crisis of democracy and human rights particularly difficult and unfortunately leaves little opportunity for change in the coming year.