Nicaragua essentially bans opposition from 2021 elections

FILE - In this May 26, 2018 file photo, the Spanish word for "Murderer" covers a mural of Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega, as part of anti-government protests demanding his resignation in Managua, Nicaragua. Nicaragua's ruling party-dominated Congress has passed a law Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, that would essentially ban opposition candidates from running in the 2021 presidential elections, giving President Daniel Ortega the power to unilaterally declare citizens "terrorists" or coup-mongers, classify them as "traitors to the homeland" and ban them from running as candidates. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix, File)
FILE - In this May 26, 2018 file photo, the Spanish word for "Murderer" covers a mural of Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega, as part of anti-government protests demanding his resignation in Managua, Nicaragua. Nicaragua's ruling party-dominated Congress has passed a law Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, that would essentially ban opposition candidates from running in the 2021 presidential elections, giving President Daniel Ortega the power to unilaterally declare citizens "terrorists" or coup-mongers, classify them as "traitors to the homeland" and ban them from running as candidates. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix, File) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

MANAGUA – Nicaragua’s ruling party-dominated Congress passed a law Monday that would essentially ban opposition candidates from running in the 2021 presidential elections.

The law gives the government of President Daniel Ortega the power to unilaterally declare citizens “terrorists” or coup-mongers, classify them as “traitors to the homeland” and ban them from running as candidates.

Given that Ortega has already applied those terms to virtually the entire opposition and the leaders of massive 2018 protests against his regime, the law approved Monday appears aimed at sweeping aside the last roadblock to Ortega’s continuing his near-perpetual rule over the Central American nation.

The law bans candidates “who lead or finance a coup ... encourage foreign interference, ask for military intervention ... propose or plan economic blockades, applaud and champion the imposition of sanctions against Nicaragua or its citizens.”

So far, the United States has imposed sanctions on about 27 people close to Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, including Murillo herself and three of her children with Ortega. The sanctions are aimed at bringing about free elections.

The law says people designated by Ortega “will be traitors to the homeland, and for that reason may not run for public office.” Treason is punishable by prison terms of up to 15 years.

The leader of the opposition coalition Alianza Cívica, Juan Sebastián Chamorro, wrote that Ortega should be the first person to be banned under the new law.

“The one who they should apply this law to is Daniel Ortega, for all the human rights violations he has committed and the damage he has done,” Chamorro wrote in his social media accounts.