US to 'Maintain Presence in Nicaragua After Election', Support for Anti-FSLN Groups, Official Says

© REUTERS / OSWALDO RIVASA woman sits next to an image of Nicaragua's president, Daniel Ortega in Catarina, Nicaragua October 1, 2020.
A woman sits next to an image of Nicaragua's president, Daniel Ortega in Catarina, Nicaragua October 1, 2020. - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.11.2021
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The US intends to continue supporting anti-Sandinista groups inside of Nicaragua after Sunday's presidential election, saying on Friday that it has already determined President Daniel Ortega will not have a democratic mandate.
A senior US State Department official told reporters on Friday that the US would maintain its presence in Nicaragua after the Sunday election and would seek to support those working to restore democracy.
According to the official, the US will regard Nicaragua as a dictatorship if Ortega wins, saying he will not have a democratic mandate.
The US will also use its leverage in international financial institutions against Nicaragua and will avoid certain trade "interactions" seen as benefiting the Nicaraguan government, the official added.
The official further added the Nicaraguan government has been "transparent" that it will use political prisoners as leverage, adding the US will not accept that.
The comments come after the US House of Representatives on Wednesday passed the Reinforcing Nicaragua’s Adherence to Conditions for Electoral Reform (RENACER) Act, which will impose sanctions targeting Nicaragua's economy and access to international financial resources. The bill, which US President Joe Biden has not yet signed into law, also asks him to regularly reconsider Nicaragua's membership in the CAFTA free trade agreement, which allows Nicaragua to cheaply export goods to the United States.
Upwards of 60% of Nicaragua's exports go to the US, most of which are apparel, rolled tobacco, and produce such as raw sugar and coffee, according to data collected by the OEC.

The US has staunchly opposed the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) led by Ortega since it first came to power in 1979, throwing out the US-backed Somoza family dictatorship. Funding right-wing Contra guerrilla fighters in the 1980s, the US forced Ortega out of office in the1992 elections, but he returned in the 2006 elections on a wave of anger at the neoliberal policies ushered in after the democratic socialist group was pushed out.

Since then, programs that have helped the peasants, working class and indigenous communities, and international coordination with left-wing countries like Cuba and Venezuela, have earned the FSLN fresh enmity in Washington. Ortega has handily won reelection in 2011 and 2016.
In 2018, protests over an unpopular pension reform measure were quickly pushed into armed uprising after US-backed groups took up arms and set up roadblocks, targeting Nicaraguan police and FSLN officials in violence that claimed hundreds of lives. The US called the protests a "pro-democracy" movement and accused Ortega of dictatorial practices.
© REUTERS / Maynor ValenzuelaMarcelo Montiel, presidential candidate of the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN), shows a ballot with the presidential candidates during a campaign rally ahead of the November 7 presidential election, in Masaya, Nicaragua October 31, 2021.
Marcelo Montiel, presidential candidate of the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN), shows a ballot with the presidential candidates during a campaign rally ahead of the November 7 presidential election, in Masaya, Nicaragua October 31, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.11.2021
Marcelo Montiel, presidential candidate of the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN), shows a ballot with the presidential candidates during a campaign rally ahead of the November 7 presidential election, in Masaya, Nicaragua October 31, 2021.
Central to US support for those groups has been the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which is part of the US Department of States, and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a front group for the CIA used to disguise its support for pro-Western groups from China to Egypt and Venezuela.
When police arrested several of the leaders of those riots this past July, several of whom were running as candidates in the November election, Ortega was accused of stifling democracy and silencing the opposition. However, according to TeleSUR, there are five candidates in Sunday's election who span from across the political spectrum, from right-wing evangelists to liberal parties and the socialist FSLN.
Moreover, the US hasn't demonstrated that those candidates arrested had any meaningful political following, or that their absence from the ballot would have a substantial impact on the electoral decisions of those who vote on Sunday.
A survey from September found that roughly 70% of those surveyed said they intend to vote for the FSLN candidate, which is Ortega. That is about the same level of support expressed for Ortega in the 2016 elections.
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