Explainer: Nicaragua’s descent into dictatorship

While President Daniel Ortega’s repression has heated up over the past few years, he has been destroying Nicaragua’s democracy for decades, writes Christopher Sabatini.

The World Today
2 minute READ

​Nicaragua’s slide into totalitarianism happened ‘gradually, then suddenly’ – to borrow a phrase from Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. But it was always predictable.

It started with President Daniel Ortega’s election in 2006 after the Sandinista government he led from 1979 to 1990 was voted out in democratic elections. His victory that year was made possible by a deal he struck with an outgoing president Arnoldo Aleman in 1999 to lower the threshold for a first-round presidential win to just 35 per cent. It was no coincidence that this was just below where Ortega was polling at the time. Implicit in the deal was a get-out-of-jail card for the infamously corrupt Aleman.

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