Nicaragua is a coastal country in Central America founded in 1821 after gaining independence from Spain, then joining the Mexican empire. It became officially independent in 1838. There hasn’t been an entended stretch of stability in their history, which can likely be accredited to foreign occupation and consistent civil war throughout the 19th century. Widespread poverty also contributes to instability, with 44% of the country living on $2 or less per day. In Nicaragua, their president Daniel Ortega, was first a leader from 1979 to 1990, and was then reelected 2007 to the present, with the opportunity to stay in power until 2027.
The fairness of his most recent election has been greatly contested, after he had almost 40 prominent opposing candidates imprisoned, some of which for up to 15 years, after accusing them of economic crimes, threatening national security and treason. Also, due to intimidation tactics and voters lack of faith in their government, only one in every five registered voters went to the polls for the 2021 presidential elections, and polls say that 80% of Nicaraguans do not view this election as legitimate. The sitting president, Daniel Ortega, has publicly called his opponents “sons of Yankee imperialist bitches” and Freedom House reports that internet in Nicaragua is disproportionately expensive when compared to their minimum wage and difficult to access due to poor infrastructure. Also, there are reports that the Nicaraguan government controls fake social media accounts, promoting their own regime and influencing members of the public that are able to access to social media.
Ortega knows of his citizens hatred for him, which is why he went to the lengths he did to ensure an unfair election. If their election was at all free, he knows he would risk a loss, and therefore did everything in his power to control the results. Protesters have been imprisoned as well as opponents, so all basic standards of a free and fair election have been dissolved. The international community has placed enormous pressure on Nicaragua, they have put sanctions on trade and have outwardly condemned Ortega’s authoritarian ambitions. Ortega has been in power for 26 years in total and has used this time to craft relationships in government that will protect his interests and back him up.
As touched on in Ozan O. Varol’s Stealth Authoritariansism, many leaders on paths to become dictators use tactics that are referred to as “Stealth Authoritarian”. This simply means that people in positions of power will use legal methods to achieve dictatorial means, like jailing opposition candidates or suing publication companies for libel. Daniel Ortega practiced this method of suppression when jailing opposition candidate Christiana Chamorro. While the allegations read “money laundering”, Nicaraguans and the international community know better.
An important lesson to draw from this instance of democratic backsliding and erosion is that the more history a candidate has with a country and the longer they’re in power, the more difficult it becomes to take that power away. When individuals with an autocratic agenda come to power, once they have that position for long enough, removal is more and more difficult as they gain allies in higher up positions of power. Institutions can be built that enable a leader like Ortega to do this legally and create favorable results for him and his staff
“Nicaragua Poverty Rate 1993-2022,” MacroTrends,
 “Nicaragua’s Undemocratic Election.” n.d. United States Department of State.
 “Is Nicaragua’s Descent into Dictatorship Irreversible?” n.d. United States Institute of Peace.
 “Nicaragua: Freedom on the Net 2022 Country Report.” n.d. Freedom House..
 Stuenkel, Oliver, and Oliver Stuenkel. n.d. “Nicaragua’s Farcical Election Marks Consolidation
of Ortega’s Autocracy.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
 Varol, Ozan. 2015. Review of Stealth Authoritarianism. Iowa Lab Review. 2015.
 BBC News. 2022. “Cristiana Chamorro: Nicaragua Opposition Leader Sentenced,” March
2022, sec. Latin America & Caribbean
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