NICARAGUA IN CRISIS

Over the past several months the tiny Central American nation of Nicaragua has been rocked by some of the worst political violence the region has seen in decades.


The unrest began in April when President Daniel Ortega’s government cracked down on protests against an unpopular pension reform. Hundreds have been killed since. On Saturday, two more died as government-backed paramilitaries laid siege to a church complex in the capital city of Managua where students, priests, and journalists had taken refuge. Thirteen countries in Latin America have condemned the Ortega government’s actions.

President Ortega is one of the region’s wiliest political survivors. He first took power in 1979, leading a revolution by the Marxist-Leninist Sandinista Liberation Front, which prompted a decade-long, ruinous civil war against US-backed right-wing paramilitaries.

He stepped down after losing elections in 1990. But after reinventing himself as a milder sort of socialist with a business-friendly streak and more piously Catholic outlook, Ortega won the presidency in 2006 and has consolidated power ever since: abolishing constitutional term limits, appointing his wife as vice president, and handing immense media power to his children.

Ortega claims he and his wife are merely keeping order against a US-backed attempt to overthrow his government. But as a detached, nepotistic ruler cracking down on journalists and students, he has prompted protest chants that compare him with Anastasio Somoza, the man he overthrew nearly 40 years ago.

Is Ortega too on his way out? As Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro (whom Ortega has cultivated ties with) has shown to chilling effect, rulers can stay in power for a long time so long as the men with guns stay on side.

But an increasingly bloody standoff in Nicaragua could have repercussions across the region. In contrast to the so-called “Northern Triangle” countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, where the governments’ inability to provide even basic security has caused homicide rates to soar and prompted hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers to head north, Nicaragua has enjoyed relative stability in recent years. As the crisis there deepens, that relative calm could fade fast, putting increasing pressure on Nicaragua’s northern neighbors.

Visit Microsoft on The Issues for a front-row seat to see how Microsoft Public Affairs is thinking about the future of AI and work; cybersecurity and elections; and more. Check back regularly to watch videos, and read blogs and feature stories to see how Microsoft is approaching the issues that matter most. Subscribe for the latest at Microsoft on the Issues.

As protests over the police killing of George Floyd raged across the country, there have been more than 125 instances of journalists being shot with rubber bullets by police, arrested, or in some cases assaulted by protesters while covering the unrest.

Foreign news crews from Germany and Australia have been caught up in the crackdown. Australia's Prime Minister has even called for an investigation. Some of these journalists have simply been caught in the crossfire during surges of unrest, but video and photographic evidence reveals cases where police have deliberately targeted reporters doing their jobs.

More Show less

This week, Ian Bremmer is joined by analyst Michael Hirson to take the Red Pen to an op-ed by New York Times Opinion columnist Bret Stephens.

Today, we're marking up a recent op-ed by New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, entitled "China and the Rhineland Moment." And the subheading here is that "America and its allies must not simply accept Beijing's aggression." Basically, Bret is arguing that US-China relations are at a tipping point brought on by China's implementation of a new national security law for Hong Kong. And he compares this to Hitler's occupation of the Rhineland in 1936, describes it as the first domino to fall in Beijing's ambitions.

More Show less

DRC's new Ebola wave: On the verge of eradicating an Ebola outbreak in the country's east which began back in 2018, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has now identified a fresh wave of cases in the northwestern city of Mbandaka. The disease, which has a fatality rate of 25 – 90 percent depending on the outbreak's character, has already killed five people in recent weeks, prompting the World Health Organization to issue a grim warning that a surge of new cases could occur there in the coming months. (Ebola has an incubation period of about 21 days.) This comes as the central African country of 89 million also grapples with COVID-19 and the world's largest measles outbreak, which has killed 6,779 people there since 2019. In recent weeks, officials from the World Health Organization predicted that the DRC's deadly Ebola crisis, which has killed 2,275 people since 2018, would soon be completely vanquished.

More Show less

1.6 billion: Uganda's president said pandemic-related travel bans could cost his country $1.6 billion in tourism revenues this year. At the same time, with many Ugandan emigrants out of work in other countries hit hard by coronavirus, Uganda risks losing much of the $1.3 billion that they send home every year in remittances.

More Show less