Written by Brennan Albrecht
Nicaragua is unraveling. At least that’s what many of its own citizens are saying. They say it with good reason. In the four-plus months of protests, the government has violently cracked down on any opposition, funding and arming paramilitary groups who function outside the limits of the law to kidnap, torture, and even execute active protesters, even non-violent ones. And not only that, but the government has systematically expelled any international human rights watchers, most notably a team from the UN . That move sparked outrage among the international community, as it clearly gave away the government’s fear of exposure. Now, the international community is asking what comes next. Experts see the following ideas as potential implications for the future.
First, there will be a major effort to address a growing refugee crisis. Central American countries, particularly Costa Rica, have received over 23,000 refugees fleeing the violence . This could very well lead to a crisis similar to what has happened in Europe as thousands of foreign refugees arrived there and stoked conflict and economic fears. The good news is that the cultural and economic differences between Central American countries are not as pronounced, but if refugees continue seeking asylum, some of these countries may begin cracking down on immigration. In that case, more refugees will move farther north to Mexico and the United States, as some already have. Because of the US’ opposition to Ortega, it is possible that we might be more willing to receive them, despite the Trump administration’s stricter immigration standards.
Second, the international community will likely place heavy economic sanctions on Nicaragua and its leaders. This may not come in the form of trade sanctions, but one possible source is from humanitarian and NGO organizations, such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, who have invested billions of dollars that could be leveraged against the government . As these organizations withdraw their investments and the Nicaraguan economy continues to crumble from the protests, it may convince the government to stand down from its tough and violent position and actually engage in peaceful dialogue with the opposition .
A third possibility that has yet to manifest itself is a rising opposition leadership. Some leaders have come forth in the form of Catholic bishops and priests who have aided the protesters and boldly spoken out against the government . But we have yet to see a rising political star among the opposition . Once a person or group emerges from the ranks as a possible rival to Ortega, those people will most definitely receive the support and backing of the UN, the US, and hundreds of other countries and organizations. It may take some time for a real opposition figure to emerge, but once that person does, he or she is likely to garner plenty of support to topple the Ortega regime.
Although the future of Nicaragua is currently in a state of limbo, the world can expect a great deal of change coming for Nicaraguans in the near future. Its tourist draw and location give it plenty of potential to rebound and become a major player in Central America and the Western Hemisphere. Until then, the international community must do what it can to address the current situation and leverage peace.
1] Lederer, Edith M. “US warns Nicaragua is following path of Syria and Venezuela” Associated Press. Sep. 6, 2018. https://www.apnews.com/fa27ae3da72941868434a3a6f31a9830
2] “ UNHCR steps up its response as thousands flee violence in Nicaragua” UN News Brief. July 31, 2018. http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/news/briefing/2018/7/5b601e4f4/unhcr-steps-its-response-thousands-flee-violence-nicaragua.html
3] Miles, Richard. “Sounding the Alarm on Nicaragua” Center for Strategic and International Studies. July 23, 2018. https://www.csis.org/analysis/sounding-alarm-nicaragua
 Tavel, Jimena. “Breaking point for Nicaragua will be economic collapse, FIU panel says” Miami Herald. Sept 24, 2018. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/article218753215.html
5] Malkin, Elisabeth and Frances Robles. “Nicaragua Clergy, Siding With Protesters, Becomes ‘Terrible Enemy’ of Ortega” New York Times. July 22, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/22/world/americas/nicaragua-protests-catholic-church.html
6] Soto, Alonso. “ Nicaragua’s unlikely opposition faces rocky road to defeat Ortega” Reuters. June 24, 2018.
Addendum: For the full UN Human Rights Report, look here: https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/NI/HumanRightsViolationsNicaraguaApr_Aug2018_EN.pdf