The shooting of two Nicaraguan university students in Managua's Church of the Divine Mercy last week was an amazing act of barbarism, even by the standards of the Strongman
But it's just a snapshot of a three-month campaign by the aging revolutionary to eliminate his democratic opposition.
Since April, the National Police and Ortegas paramilitaries have killed around 350 civilians. On Tuesday they carried out a crackdown on the opposition city of Masaya. The locals reported five deaths as government forces raided homes looking for anti-government leaders. Silvio José Báez, Auxiliary Bishop of Managua, urged Mr. Ortega to "stop the massacre."
Mr. Ortega and his wife are very unpopular, but he says he will not leave power because he has been democratically elected. He does not mention that this is his third term because he has abolished deadlines and fair elections. Nicaraguans see him as a left-wing version of
who overthrew the Sandinists in 1979.
The Democratic opposition demands its resignation and a new election, but it is overwhelmed and needs help from the international community. But the best thing the U.N. Pro forma statements such as those of the Secretary General
On Monday, they call on the government "to effectively protect its people from attacks, respect human rights and take responsibility for the violence."
The world can do even more if it is prepared to exert financial pressure. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere and can no longer rely on cheap oil for Venezuela. Mr. Ortega receives tactical help from Cuba and Russia but needs hard currency to feed his enforcers.
Earlier this month, under the Global Magnitsky Act, the US Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions on Mr. Ortega's de facto Police Commissioner, an official of the city of Managua, and an official of the State Oil Company. The Nicaraguan Investment Conditions Act (NICA), which would require the US to refuse loans to multilateral financial institutions until the restoration of democracy, has passed the parliament, but is melting in the Senate.
One source of funding is the Center American Bank for Economic Integration. Mr. Ortega signed a $ 200 million USD $ 50 million credit facility in June. The US is not a member of the Central American Bank, but many members are allies such as Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Mexico and Argentina. You can cut off the police state.
The Nicaraguan central bank has shortages of international reserves and regularly asks the International Monetary Fund for help. The IMF can make this help in restoring the rule of law. The same applies to loans from the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank. The Nicaraguan army, which has not turned against the population but has allowed the repression by irregular forces, has hundreds of millions of dollars in US pension funds that could be frozen.
Some in the Nicaraguan business world will turn against financial sanctions. But her partnership with Mr. Ortega during the years he consolidated power is one of the reasons why Nicaragua is in this mess. Freedom, as the students now know, is not free.