Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) says that American taxpayer funds are being used to help prop up the Nicaraguan regime of Daniel Ortega. Thousands of Nicaraguans have taken to the streets over the past month to protest the authoritarian government of Ortega, who many believe is attempting to set up a family dictatorship.
Describing the current situation, Cruz said last week in a speech to the Heritage Foundation, “At the end of the last month, half a million Nicaraguans took to the street to protest the corrupt Ortega regime – many of them students. These protests were sparked due to proposed changes to their national social security program. The Sandinistas predictably deployed their national police force, and the violence escalated. Dozens were murdered. Hundreds were injured, detained, or missing.”
He continued, “The press that tried to cover these crimes has been censored, and reporters have been harassed by agents of the government. Five TV stations have been taken off the air and a Facebook live video has been circulated, purporting to show a journalist being murdered while covering the violence. The police confiscated water, food, and medical supplies from volunteers helping the protesters.”
Cruz says that the Ortega government receives money from organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank. The US is the largest contributor to these institutions. Cruz has sponsored the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act to tie investment in the country to democratic reforms.
“This bipartisan legislation directs U.S. officials to oppose international loans to the government of Nicaragua until the Ortega regime is held accountable for its oppressive, anti-democratic actions and the secretary of state certifies that Nicaragua is taking effective steps to hold free and fair elections,” Cruz said.
“What NICA does,” Cruz said, “is prioritize loans for the promotion of democracy and basic human needs. In order to gain U.S. approval, they would need to show marked improvement on human rights, hold free and fair elections, strengthen the rule of law, and protect the right of political opposition parties, journalists, and human rights defenders.”
For those familiar with the Nicaraguan civil war of the 1980s, the name “Daniel Ortega” might seem familiar. Ortega was the communist Sandinista dictator from 1979 to 1990. When the Sandinistas held free elections in 1990, Ortega lost. He staged a political comeback and was re-elected to the presidency in 2006. Since Ortega regained power, the government has abolished presidential term limits and changed election rules to make it more difficult for candidates to oppose the ruling Sandinistas.
The senator compared the country to Venezuela, saying, “This is a desperate dictator in the style of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez or Nicolás Maduro, grasping for control. He faces the largest uprising since the civil war ended, almost 30 years ago. And as money from Venezuela dries up, the Nicaraguan people are under a morally and financially bankrupt regime.”
“Venezuela’s influence is crumbling along with its economy,” Cruz added. “The reason Venezuela is hurting so much… is the inevitable effect of socialism and communism. But nonetheless the bonds between these radical regimes remain strong.”
Cruz also noted that Central America has a long history of authoritarian strongmen. “This legacy has echoed throughout the Caribbean, throughout Central America, throughout South America, and across the Atlantic to Angola. Socialist strongmen still struggle to hold on to power,” he said. “By the way, if socialism is such a utopia why do you always need a brute squad to oppress the people into accepting it?”
Cruz also saluted the Nicaraguans who are risking their lives by opposing the Ortega regime, telling them, “There will be an expiration date for the Ortega regime. The American people stand with you in your fight for freedom and for the rule of law.”
[Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia]