Nicaragua yesterday received the disagreeable distinction of getting booted off Freedom House’s list of electoral democracies.
Nicaragua was the only country in the world to get tossed from this year’s list of 117 democracies, which includes new recruits Niger, Thailand and Tunisia.
Freedom House, a Washington-based think tank that publishes an annual report on the state of democracy, political freedom and human rights around the world, qualified Nicaragua as “the most serious case” in Latin America.
“Nicaragua suffered a steep decline in political rights due to irregularities in advance of and during the presidential election, which gave Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega another term in office,” the report states.
“Events in 2011 demonstrated that quasi-authoritarian populism still stands as a threat to the region’s political stability,” the report adds, referring to Latin America’s more despotic destinations.
Nicaragua’s roster cut comes less than a week after Germany announced its decision to pull aid in response to reports of electoral mischief last November.
“The Nicaraguan regime must assume the consequences of its increasingly autocratic form of government,” Germany’s Minster of Foreign Cooperation Dirk Niebel said.
Opposition groups are celebrating the twin spankings.
On Monday, a group of youth activists critical of the Sandinista government demonstrated in front of the German Embassy to show support for the aid cutoff.
“We want to recover Nicaragua’s democracy, its governability and institutionalism. And once we have done that, we hope to recover this aid from Germany,” the group said in a letter to German Ambassador Betina Kern, which she declined to accept personally.
Following the subsequent boot from Freedom House, Nicaraguan civil society claims the chickens have come home to roost.
“My first reaction is happiness to learn that there are respectable international organizations that are totally in agreement with what we have been saying about the state of democracy in Nicaragua,” said Roberto Bendaña, president of group Hagamos Democracia, whose organization has expressed serious concerns about Nicaragua’s democracy for the past four years.
Bendaña predicts the Freedom House report will, “Lamentably have serious repercussions for Nicaragua’s economy, starting with foreign direct investment, which will be chased away.”
He said he also expects the Freedom House report will revive the Nicaragua natter in U.S. Congress, which reconvened on Monday.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have called for a stronger U.S. response to what several congressmen have called fraudulent elections and a rupture of constitutional democracy in Nicaragua.
Nicaragua is even becoming a peripheral campaign issue among Republican presidential hopefuls. During a Monday night Republican debate on network TV, ultra-conservative candidate Rick Santorum said Nicaragua is part of a “growing network of folks working with jihadists.”
While Santorum’s grasp on world affairs is apparently just south of fair to middling, the fact the Nica neophyte would even venture into the syllabic wilderness of Nic-a-ra-gu-a—a word that has befuddled Washington tongues for decades—is indication that Ortega has finally put this country back on the political map, and not for happy reasons.
“The screws continue to turn, albeit slowly, against Nicaragua,” a GOP source, who wished to remain unidentified, told The Nicaragua Dispatch. “There continues to be careful thought applied here, especially on Capitol Hill, as to how further pressure can be put on the Ortega government.”