Connect with us

World

Nicaragua’s Ortega seeks re-election with opposition candidates in jail

Published

on

November 7, 2021

By Diego Oré and Daina Beth Solomon

(Reuters) – Nicaraguans vote on Sunday in a presidential election marked by longtime President Daniel Ortega’s ruthless campaign to extend his tight grip on power by jailing critics in a contest the United States has dismissed as a sham.

Ortega, a onetime guerrilla who helped depose a right-wing family dictatorship in 1979, is almost certain to get a fourth straight term, with his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, to prolong his status as the Americas’ longest-serving leader.

Advertisement

President in the 1980s before losing in a 1990 upset, Ortega returned to the top job again in 2007.

Since May, Ortega’s police have imprisoned nearly 40 leading opposition figures, including seven presidential candidates, as well as prominent business leaders, journalists and even some of his former rebel allies.

Ortega’s only opposition on the ballot comes from five less-known candidates of small allied parties.

Also up for grabs are 92 seats in the unicameral Congress, also firmly controlled by his allies. About 4.5 million Nicaraguans are eligible to vote.

Jason Marczak, a researcher at the Washington-based Atlantic Council who specializes in Central American politics, dismissed Sunday’s vote as “widely discredited,” adding that Ortega’s unpopularity could only be overcome with brute force.

Advertisement

“His victory will only have been possible by locking up would-be competitors,” he said.

Ortega’s current term took an especially repressive turn in 2018, when he quashed largely peaceful protests by those initially upset over spending cuts, killing more than 300 people and wounding thousands more.

Last year, the ruling party brought in a new law criminalizing dissent, and in recent months foreign journalists have been barred from entering the country.

One Reuters reporter was turned back by border agents last Friday, while another, a Nicaraguan citizen, was turned away in September.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last month deplored the “sham election,” accusing Ortega, 75, and Murillo, 70, of seeking an “authoritarian dynasty.”

Advertisement

Last week, U.S. officials said new sanctions were being considered against the power couple’s government, a sentiment echoed by European Union leaders, in addition to future review of Nicaragua’s status in the CAFTA regional trade pact.

Ortega, a Cold War-era U.S. antagonist and Marxist rebel in the toppling of the Somoza dictatorship in 1979, brushes off international criticism, saying Nicaragua must fight imperialists and that sanctions will not defeat him.

While most analysts agree that Ortega is likely to prevail in the near term, just as fellow leftist strongmen in Cuba and Venezuela have done in recent years, they also say prolonged unrest could drive new waves of fleeing Nicaraguans.

Many have gone either to southern neighbor Costa Rica, or sought to reach the U.S. border, pushed by an economic slump prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Gross domestic product shrank nearly 9% from 2018 to 2020, compared to robust average growth of almost 4% since 2000.

Advertisement

Analysts such as the Atlantic Council’s Marczak are already looking past Sunday’s vote.

“The question is not what happens on November 7,” he said, “but how strongly the U.S. and other democracies respond on November 8.”

(Reporting by Diego Ore and Daina Beth Solomon; Additional reporting by Alvaro Murillo; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Clarence Fernandez)

Advertisement
Continue Reading
Advertisement

World

Taiwan, Europe must defend democracy together, president says

Published

on

November 29, 2021

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan and Europe must work together to defend against authoritarianism and disinformation, President Tsai Ing-wen told visiting lawmakers from the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia on Monday.

Lithuania has faced sustained pressure from China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, since allowing the opening of a de facto Taiwanese embassy in its capital.

Beijing has ramped up military and diplomatic pressure on Taipei to accept Chinese sovereignty claims and to limit its international participation, though Tsai says Taiwan will not bow to threats and will defend its freedom and democracy.

Advertisement

Tsai told the lawmakers at the Presidential Office that Taiwan and the Baltic nations – once part of the Soviet Union – share similar experiences of breaking free from authoritarian rule and of fighting for freedom.

“The democracy we enjoy today was hard earned. This is something we all understand most profoundly,” she said.

“Now the world faces challenges posed by the expansion of authoritarianism and threat of disinformation. Taiwan is more than willing to share its experience at combating disinformation with its European friends. We must safeguard our shared values to ensure our free and democratic way of life.”

Matas Maldeikis, leader of the Lithuanian parliament’s Taiwan Friendship Group, told Tsai in response their group was in Taipei to express their solidarity with the island.

“Lithuanian government policy towards Taiwan has wide support in our society. Preserving freedom and the rules-based international order is in the vital interests for both Taiwan and Lithuania,” he said.

Advertisement

There is much opportunity for economic and cultural cooperation, added Maldeikis, whose trip has been condemned by China.

No European Union member state has official ties with Taiwan.

The United States has strongly backed its NATO ally Lithuania in its spat with China.

Lithuania faces problems too with pressure from Russia and Belarus, with migrants on its border with Belarus.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; editing by Richard Pullin)

Advertisement

Continue Reading

World

Australia’s reopening plans in doubt after Omicron cases

Published

on

November 29, 2021

By Renju Jose

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia will review its plans to reopen borders to skilled migrants and students from Dec. 1, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday, after the country reported its first cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Two people who arrived in Sydney from southern Africa tested positive on Sunday for the newly identified variant as officials ordered 14-day quarantine for citizens returning from nine African countries.

Advertisement

Morrison said “it is a bit too early” to reinstate two-week mandatory hotel quarantine for foreign travellers, urging people to remain calm as data had not yet fully determined the severity, transmissibility and vaccine resistance of the Omicron strain.

“So we just take this one step at a time, get the best information, make calm, sensible decisions,” Morrison told Nine News.

Omicron, dubbed a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization, is potentially more contagious than previous variants. But experts do not know yet if it will cause more or less severe COVID-19 compared to other strains.

Morrison said the national security committee will meet later on Monday to assess the border reopening relaxations due from Wednesday. A meeting of leaders of all states and territories will be held by Tuesday, he said.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said he had asked the country’s immunisation advisory group to review the time frame for COVID-19 booster shots. About 87% of Australia’s population above 16 years of age have been fully vaccinated, above the rates seen in the United States, Britain and many countries in Western Europe.

Advertisement

Health officials in New South Wales said three people who arrived on Sunday from southern Africa had tested positive for COVID-19 and that genomic sequencing was underway to check if they were infected with the Omicron strain.

The new variant has emerged as Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s largest cities, had begun to allow vaccinated citizens entry from overseas without quarantine from Nov. 1, having shut their borders for more than 18 months.

Both cities have tightened their travel rules with all international travellers ordered to quarantine for 72 hours. Other states have not opened their borders to foreign travellers yet due to varying vaccination rates.

Australia has so far recorded about 209,000 coronavirus cases and 1,997 deaths since the pandemic began.

(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by David Gregorio and Stephen Coates)

Advertisement

Continue Reading

World

Earthquake hits remote northern Peru, 75 homes destroyed, no deaths reported

Published

on

November 29, 2021

By Marco Aquino

(Reuters) – A 7.5 magnitude earthquake shook the remote Amazon region of northern Peru on Sunday and was felt as far as Lima in the center of the country, destroying 75 homes but with no deaths reported.

The seismological center of the Geophysical Institute of Peru (IGP) said the earthquake had a depth of 131 kilometers (81 miles) and that the epicenter was 98 kilometers from the town of Santa Maria de Nieva in the province of Condorcanqui.

Advertisement

The quake was felt throughout central and northern Peru. Some residents left their homes as a precaution, according to local radio and television reports.

No damage was reported to the 1,100-kilometer oil pipeline of state-owned Petroperu that crosses the Peruvian Amazon region to the Pacific coast in the north.

The National Institute of Civil Defense (Indeci) said in a statement that 220 homes were affected, 81 uninhabitable and 75 destroyed. Seven places of religious worship and two shopping centers were among damaged facilities, Indeci said, adding that four residents were injured.

President Pedro Castillo said through Twitter that he ordered the immediate deployment of support personnel and took a trip in a military plane to the area.

“We will support those affected and address material damage,” he said.

Advertisement

Walter Culqui, mayor of the town of Jalca Grande in Chachapoyas province, said several houses had been damaged, leaving three non-serious injuries. Part of the church tower in the area collapsed, he said.

Through social networks, electricity cuts were reported in several locations in jungle areas. Local TV images showed stretches of roads blocked by huge rocks and dirt that had been knocked loose.

The U.S. warning system said there was no tsunami warning after the earthquake.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino in Lima and Aakriti Bhalla in Bengaluru, writing by Hugh Bronstein, Editing by Catherine Evans and Mark Porter)

Advertisement
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending