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Opinion Nicaragua’s dangerous new attacks on the press

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega speaks at a meeting in Managua, Nicaragua, on Nov. 8.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega speaks at a meeting in Managua, Nicaragua, on Nov. 8. (Jorge Cabrera/Reuters)
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DANIEL ORTEGA, Nicaragua’s authoritarian president, is an old hand at repression, having first used it to self-serving effect in the 1980s as the firebrand revolutionary leader of the leftist Sandinista government. Now an aging strongman presiding over an economy in free fall and faced with months of popular street protests, Mr. Ortega is again suffocating independent media, human rights groups and other outposts of civil society.

In recent days he has intensified the crackdown by ordering the offices and newsrooms of independent news outfits ransacked and having the parliament, which he controls, ban prominent nongovernmental organizations that have monitored and documented the very repression to which they have now fallen victim.

Voted into office in corrupt elections, but a dictator by inclination and experience, Mr. Ortega has focused special attention on muzzling critical voices in the media, whom he has subjected to arbitrary arrests, beatings and death threats issued by his goons in the police and paramilitary muscle squads. Among the targets is Carlos Fernando Chamorro, director of the popular online news site Confidencial and a TV news magazine show called “Esta Semana” (“This Week”). Both were raided last week; computers and other equipment were carted off.

It was Mr. Chamorro’s father, Pedro Joaquin, also a prominent journalist, whose 1978 assassination set the stage for the overthrow of Nicaragua’s right-wing Somoza family dictatorship, which enabled Mr. Ortega’s Sandinistas to gain power. Now it is Mr. Ortega, the leader with his wife of a new family dictatorship, who 40 years later menaces the country’s courageous independent media.

Mr. Ortega, who returned to the presidency in 2006, was sustained for a time by the oil-fueled largesse of Venezuela’s since-deceased president Hugo Chávez. Now that the spigot has run dry thanks to Venezuela’s epic mismanagement, Nicaragua, already the hemisphere’s second-poorest nation, is in fiscal and economic meltdown, hastened by Mr. Ortega’s tyranny.

Congress and the Trump administration have imposed sanctions on Mr. Ortega and his wife in an effort to force them to resurrect the rule of law and hold new elections. So far, the United Nations, as well as international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank, has not followed suit. Until it does, Mr. Ortega’s repression is likely to get worse.

Read more:

Dánae Vílchez: Ortega continues to suffocate protests and the press in Nicaragua

The Post’s View: Nicaraguans are waking up to the political rot in their government

Dánae Vílchez: Nicaraguans are under siege. But we won’t stop resisting until Ortega steps down.

Jackson Diehl: Trump has been mostly silent on Latin America. That’s probably a good thing.

Francisco Toro and James Bosworth: The unlikely origins of Nicaragua’s epic wave of protest