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Washington, D.C. —U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and colleagues in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken drawing the administration’s attention to the Ortega regime’s harassment and jailing of more than 150 opposition leaders, including opposition Presidential candidates, as well the ongoing authoritarian crackdown ahead of Nicaragua’s November 2021 presidential election. In the bipartisan letter, the senators call for increased efforts to secure the immediate release of political prisoners targeted by Ortega. The legislators also urged the Biden Administration to expand its use of sanctions authorities granted under the NICA Act and the RENACER Act to designate Ortega as well as the regime’s top military cronies.
 
The senators pressed the Biden Administration to condemn the upcoming November election as illegitimate, consider suspending Nicaragua from the Organization of American States (OAS), and called for a review of Nicaragua’s participation in the Dominican Republic-Central America (CAFTA-DR) free trade agreement. The letter also called for greater, sustained global attention to the situation in Nicaragua, including at the United Nations and the OAS. 
 
“In addition to arbitrary and unjust detentions, the Ortega regime is prohibiting the country’s leading opposition parties from participating in the November elections. It has also dissolved the legal registration of dozens of civil society groups in Nicaragua, and banned respected international organizations from operating in the country,” the senators wrote.  “Ortega’s National Assembly has legalized arbitrary detention, enacted abusive legislation that restricts freedom of expression and the work of independent human rights organizations, continued its attacks on press freedom, and is ratifying a new agreement with Russia to censor the internet. Taken together, these actions amount to an expansive authoritarian assault on Nicaragua’s institutions and civil society.”
 
Joining Rubio and Menendez in signing the letter were Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Rick Scott (R-FL).
 
Rubio is the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues. 

Menendez is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. 

The full text of the letter is below.
 
Dear Mr. Secretary,
 
We are writing to urge you to increase pressure on Nicaragua’s Ortega regime and prevent the further erosion of democratic norms and the rule of law in Nicaragua. The international community must take urgent actions to stem one of the most severe campaigns of repression in the Western Hemisphere since the military dictatorships of the 1980s. In the months ahead, democratic actors in Nicaragua will require robust support from the United States and international partners as they seek a peaceful return to democracy.
 
Since late May, the regime has jailed five opposition candidates for the November 2021 general elections: Arturo Cruz, Félix Maradiaga, Juan Sebastián Chamorro, Medardo Mairena, and Miguel Mora. Two more contenders, Cristiana Chamorro and Noel Vidaurre, are under house arrest. Many of them are subject to politically motivated prosecutions. In total, the regime is holding at least 150 political prisoners, denying them due process and regular access to legal counsel and their families. On July 27, the regime incarcerated Nicaragua’s 77-year-old former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Francisco Aguirre-Sacasa, under bogus charges of treason and without regard for his health. Aguirre-Sacasa and many others are being held at El Chipote detention center, a facility infamous for acts of torture and other ill-treatment, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
 
In addition to arbitrary and unjust detentions, the Ortega regime is prohibiting the country’s leading opposition parties from participating in the November elections. It has also dissolved the legal registration of dozens of civil society groups in Nicaragua, and banned respected international organizations from operating in the country. Ortega’s National Assembly has legalized arbitrary detention, enacted abusive legislation that restricts freedom of expression and the work of independent human rights organizations, continued its attacks on press freedom, and is ratifying a new agreement with Russia to censor the internet. Taken together, these actions amount to an expansive authoritarian assault on Nicaragua’s institutions and civil society.
 
We commend the steps you have taken to respond to Nicaragua’s slide into authoritarianism, including suspending the visas of 150 individuals associated with the regime. We also applaud the European Union’s recent move to freeze the assets and suspend the visas of Rosario Murillo and seven other regime officials on August 2. However, more must be done. Most urgently, we must use diplomatic channels to press for the immediate release of all political prisoners. Until they are released, the Biden administration and our international partners, must press the regime to allow political prisoners access to legal representation and humanitarian visits.
 
The Administration has powerful tools at its disposal, including the 2018 Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act (NICA) Act, and the measures defined under the Reinforcing Nicaragua's Adherence to Conditions for Electoral Reform Act (RENACER) Act, which passed the Senate on August 6. Full implementation of the NICA Act will send the Ortega regime a clear message: continued repression is unacceptable. As you evaluate options, we encourage you to expand sanctions to President Daniel Ortega and the ranks of the Nicaraguan military and its investment fund, the Instituto de Previsión Social Militar (IPSM).
 
We also urge you to coordinate with Treasury Department to fully enforce the NICA Act’s provisions on investment conditionality by providing guidance to the U.S. Executive Directors at international financial institutions to oppose extensions of loans or assistance that could benefit regime officials, rather than providing the people of Nicaragua the aid they desperately need. It is imperative that U.S. Executive Directors coordinate their approach towards Nicaragua with other major donor countries.
 
The Ortega regime thrives on the lack of effective multilateral coordination. We ask that you encourage sustained international scrutiny and condemnation by UN Secretary General António Guterres and relevant UN bodies. Unless the opposition presidential candidates are released from detention, their parties are re-registered, and they are together allowed to nominate an opposition presidential candidate to run in the November elections, the United States should rally its partners at the Organization of American States (OAS) to support a resolution condemning the vote as illegitimate and consider invoking Article 21 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter to suspend Nicaragua from the OAS.
 
Taken together, these steps may push Ortega to permit an opening for democratic change. However, if Ortega refuses to uphold the rule of law and respect human rights, we believe that a review of Nicaragua’s membership in the Dominican Republic-Central America (CAFTA-DR) free trade agreement is needed, as called for under the Senate-approved RENACER Act. Please count on our full support in your efforts to help Nicaraguans to restore their democracy. 
 
Sincerely,

RUBIO SE UNE A MENÉNDEZ Y COLEGAS PIDIENDO AMPLIAR SANCIONES EN NICARAGUA PARA INCLUIR A DANIEL ORTEGA

Washington, D.C. — El senador estadounidense Marco Rubio (R-FL) se unió al senador Bob Menéndez (D-NJ) y colegas para resaltar el acoso y encarcelamiento por parte del régimen de Ortega a más de 150 líderes de la oposición, incluyendo candidatos presidenciales y la represión autoritaria antes de las elecciones presidenciales en Nicaragua agendadas para noviembre del 2021. En una carta bipartidista al Secretario de Estado Antony Blinken, los senadores piden mayores esfuerzos para asegurar la libertad inmediata de los presos políticos que son objetivo de Ortega. Los legisladores también instaron a la Administración Biden a ampliar el uso de las autoridades de sanciones otorgadas bajo la ley NICA y la ley RENACER para designar a Ortega y los secuaces militares del régimen.

Los senadores presionaron al gobierno de Biden para que condenara designar las próximas elecciones de noviembre como ilegítimas. Los senadores también resaltaron la posibilidad de suspender a Nicaragua de la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) y pidieron una revisión de la participación de Nicaragua en el tratado de libre comercio CAFTA-DR. La misiva también insta a una mayor atención de otros países a la situación en Nicaragua, incluyendo en las Naciones Unidas y la OEA.
 
Junto a Rubio y Menéndez enviando la carta estaban los senadores Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) y Rick Scott (R-FL).
 
El texto completo de la carta en inglés está aquí.
 
Rubio es el Presidente del Subcomité de Relaciones Exteriores para el Hemisferio Occidental, Delincuencia Transnacional, Seguridad Civil, Democracia, Derechos Humanos y Asuntos Globales de la Mujer.
 
Menéndez es el presidente del Comité de Relaciones Exteriores del Senado.