President Joe Biden left no stone unturned in condemning Sunday’s elections in Nicaragua, calling them a “sham” after that country’s longtime presidential opponents were jailed and brutally repressed for a fourth consecutive term.
But as of Monday, Biden had yet to sign legislation that had been making its way through Congress for months and is aimed at curbing the inner circle of Nicaragua’s president. The RENACER Act (Reinforcing Nicaragua’s Adherence to the Conditions for the Electoral Reform Act) passed with bipartisan support and landed on Biden’s desk last week.
“What Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo planned today, was a pantomime election that was neither free nor fair and certainly not democratic,” Biden said in a statement.
He vowed to “use all diplomatic and economic means at our disposal to support the people of Nicaragua and to hold the Ortega-Murillo government accountable.”
In remarks covered by Pro-Ortega La Voz del Sandinismo, Vice President Murillo is quoted as saying that the voting was fair. “We receive these votes with humility and a great sense of responsibility,” he reportedly said, adding: “We must do a lot to fulfill the aspirations and dreams of Nicaraguan families.”
Murillo also said that she and her husband had received congratulatory messages from Russia, Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia.
Many international media organizations could not go to Nicaragua to cover the poll.
Biden urged to sign
In a statement on Monday, US Representatives Gregory Meeks and Albio Cyres urged Biden to sign the law. Meeks is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Sears chairs the Western Hemisphere, Civil Defense, Migration and International Economic Policy Subcommittee.
“Last week, we supported the passage of the Renesar Act, which prioritizes the US commitment to democracy in Nicaragua and called for increased coordination with our international allies to continue to pressure the authoritarian Ortega-Murillo government,” he said. does.”
“We urge the Biden administration to move swiftly to sign this important legislation.”
Ryan Berg, a senior fellow in the Americas program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said ReneSar could not have affected Ortega’s actions if it had been signed into law sooner. Berg noted that longtime leaders have become even more excited by the increased pressure, not only from the US but also from the Central American region.
Possible reasons for not signing
Berg testified before Congress in support of the law. He said it’s possible Biden didn’t sign the act early because he didn’t want it to become a narrative.
“Biden didn’t want the RENACER signing to be the story of Sunday’s election sham,” Berg told VOA. “He didn’t want it to be about America and Nicaragua. He didn’t want American action to fall into the rhetoric camp that Ortega so likes to use, about imperialism and how he resisted pressure from the Yankees. are the answers.”
“But my counter will be on that, it took so long to do this in Congress already,” Berg said. “It’s been late March that we’ve been trying to get the Nicaragua bill passed. Why delay any further?”
Wilson Center chief of staff Eddie Acevedo said other benefits could soon come from the 35-member organization of US states.
“I believe there will be a quick response from the US government,” he told VOA. “In addition, we are urging the Organization of all US states. The OAS has a meeting a few days this week, where they will take Nicaragua on their agenda and discuss implementing the Inter-American Democratic Charter against Ortega “
That charter, which suspends OAS membership, has been invoked four times in the past – once against Honduras and three times against Venezuela.
“Sometimes it takes only a few days on the part of the bureaucracy for these bills to reach the president’s desk,” Acevedo said, “but have no fear—the law will be signed.”
Berg says he fears that in the meantime, more and more Nicaraguas will decide to leave the country.
“In June or July, right after a wave of repression that saw all seven of those candidates for president jailed, we saw a significant increase in border-occupied Nicaragua by CBP (US Customs and Border Protection) ”, said Berg.
“I think they were the second largest group that month, and I think we can expect to see greater numbers of Nicaraguans on the border in the coming months.”