Nicaragua expelled the International Committee of the Red Cross, the latest move in a widening crackdown on dissent. The expulsion means there is no independent group with access to the growing number of political prisoners, who say they face regular human rights abuses.
President Daniel Ortega’s government has violently quashed any form of resistance — including sentencing a Catholic bishop to 26 years in prison and threatening the winner of the Miss Universe beauty pageant — since protests in 2018 endangered his regime.
Nicaraguans flee the country due to harsh crackdowns
Between 2018 and 2022, 10% of Nicaragua’s population of 6 million fled the country, many making the long journey to the U.S. southern border. There is no sign that Nicaraguans will stop fleeing the country: Over 20% of respondents in a recent Gallup poll said it was “very likely” they would emigrate to the U.S. or Costa Rica within the next year. Amid this mass exodus, family remittances sent from the U.S. have become one of the country’s only sources of economic growth, El País reported. “Every day the country deviates further from human rights,” a UN official said on Monday.
Ortega seeks to punish the U.S. with migrant flow
The Ortega regime has allowed Nicaragua to become a pitstop for migrants from Africa and the Caribbean who are seeking to reach the U.S. In Senegal, the route from Nicaragua has become famous as a springboard to the U.S., Le Monde reported. Approximately 100,000 migrants from Cuba and Haiti have landed in Nicaragua since June, a migration expert told the Wall Street Journal. The surge of migrants through Nicaragua allows Ortega to cause problems for the U.S. while earning some easy cash by charging refugees to apply for a visa, a local journalist said.
Nicaragua grows its ties with Beijing
As growing domestic repression has led to Western sanctions and condemnation, Ortega has been on the hunt for new friends. In 2021, the country abandoned its long-standing ties with Taiwan to recognize the island as a Chinese province. Since then, China and Nicaragua have announced multiple Chinese infrastructure projects, signed a number of trade agreements, and shown signs of military cooperation. Beijing’s backing will help sustain the regime as China seeks to grow its foothold in Latin America, one analyst wrote.