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Congressman Sires Chairs Subcommittee Hearing on Ortega’s Anti-Democratic Actions in Nicaragua

Sep 21, 2021
Press Release

(Washington, D.C.) –Today, Congressman Albio Sires (D-NJ), Chairman of the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, Migration, and International Economic Policy, delivered the following opening remarks at the Congressional hearing he convened entitled “An International Response to Ortega’s Destruction of Democracy in Nicaragua”:

“Over the last four months, the Ortega regime has carried out a shameless campaign to eliminate the political opposition and consolidate a one-party dictatorship in Nicaragua. Even at a time when many governments in Latin America are dismantling democratic institutions, the Ortega regime’s crackdown stands out for how brazen and sweeping it has been. The regime has rounded up nearly every potential challenger to Ortega and has not even tried to hide these arrests and forced disappearances under a veneer of legality.

“The message from Daniel Ortega is clear. He believes he will lose November’s elections if they are competitive.

“Over one hundred and fifty political prisoners are now being held in Nicaraguan jails. Many of them were forcibly disappeared.

“Earlier this month, some family members were finally able to visit these prisoners for the first time since their arrests in June. They reported deplorable conditions, including evidence of torture, solitary confinement, and starvation. Some prisoners have lost more than twenty pounds since they were detained. Today, I reiterate my longstanding call for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Nicaragua.

“I applaud the Biden administration for its recent sanctions against one hundred regime officials and fifty family members for their acts of corruption and violations of human rights. The administration has been consistent in condemning the Ortega regime’s actions and has worked to promote a more multilateral approach to Nicaragua.

“The passage of a resolution in June by the Organization of American States was a small but positive step forward because it gained the support of additional member states that had previously abstained on issues related to Nicaragua. But much more must be done.

“Having written the Nica Act with Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, I am frustrated that the International Monetary Fund recently provided three hundred and fifty million dollars to the regime. The IMF should not take Ortega’s word for it that these funds will be used to address the COVID-19 pandemic. We must all remember that this is the same regime that spent the first sixteen months of the pandemic holding large political rallies, manipulating medical records to deflate the death toll, and firing doctors and nurses who dared to speak out. International financial institutions should not be providing a lifeline to Ortega.

“The House of Representatives must urgently pass the RENACER Act, which would strengthen oversight of funds provided by international financial institutions and increase targeted sanctions against regime officials. This legislation would encourage the U.S. to continue working more closely with the European Union in implementing its sanctions framework.

“We should also begin preparing a number of severe diplomatic consequences, assuming Nicaragua’s elections in November become a coronation for Ortega. Nicaragua should be suspended under the Inter-American Democratic Charter on November 8th and its participation under the Central America Free Trade Agreement should be reconsidered.

“Nicaraguan activists, opposition leaders, journalists, students, and doctors have shown tremendous courage in the face of the Ortega regime’s violations of their most basic rights. We must show that we stand with them in this battle against a brutally repressive dictatorship.”