Nicaragua. The November 5 municipal elections were conducted under the observation of a delegation from the United States Cooperative Organization OAS, according to an agreement in February with the government. The delegation reported that the elections were largely correct. Thus, the government coalition with the FSLN (Sandinist Front for National Liberation) at the center could count the elections as a great success. Although only one municipality was added to the 134 it already had, the party thus retains power in almost 90% of the country’s 153 municipalities, including all provincial capitals.
According to Countryaah.com, the OAS delegation’s report nevertheless recommended reforms of the electoral system, in particular to eliminate the risk of violence. Five people were killed during a riot in connection with the November elections. The opposition was more critical, particularly Panorama Electoral, an umbrella organization for a number of grassroots movements in the country, which pointed out that the state apparatus with the legal institutions is in the hands of the FSLN and that voter participation was extremely low, which put legitimacy in focus. Internationally, there was also skepticism about the electoral procedures in Nicaragua, especially from the United States.
At the end of June, Congress approved a series of changes to the criminal law proposed by the government. Among other things, the penalties were increased for a number of violent crimes. The reform was carried out in light of the fact that President Daniel Ortega’s popularity is largely related to the relatively low crime rate in comparison with the Central American neighboring countries, and contributed to his party’s success in the municipal elections. During the first five months of the year, 194 murders were reported across the country, which can be compared to, for example, El Salvador, where approximately the same number of murders occur on average in a week.
At the same time, concerns were expressed that political repression was increasing instead. At the end of April, for example, a major protest march was blocked by the construction of the large canal that is supposed to link the Pacific with the Caribbean over Nicaraguan territory by armed police. The leader of the protest movement, Francisca Ramírez, said the police’s allegations of violence on the part of the protesters were false and were themselves subject to threats and slander. The canal construction, which is estimated to cost $ 50 billion, is controversial and the government is accused of a lack of public transparency in the procurement process, environmental considerations and respect for local communities concerned. The protest march in April was the 89th since the plans were announced.