The RENACER Act presented on March 25th to the United States Congress by a bipartisan group of US senators, expands the reasons why officials from the Ortega and Murillo regime can be sanctioned by the United States government.
Since mid-2018, the United States has sanctioned at least 27 citizens linked to the regime. Among them, senior officials, deputies and members of the presidential family. Nine public institutions or mixed entities are added to the list, including the National Police.
All have been sanctioned for acts of corruption and violations against the human rights of Nicaraguans. However, the bill stipulates that those citizens “who directly or indirectly obstruct” the realization of the Nicaraguan elections on November 7 will also be sanctioned.
The Reinforcing Nicaragua’s Adherence to Conditions for Electoral Reform (RENACER) Act specifically establishes that “persons involved directly or indirectly obstructing the establishment of conditions necessary for the realization of free, fair, and transparent elections in Nicaragua” are subject to economic sanctions.
The document details that the possible sanctions include Government officials and Ortega’s relatives; members of the National Police, the National Army, and of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE in Spanish). As well as “party members and elected official from the Sandinista National Liberation Front and their family members.”
The RENACER bill also mentions “individuals or entities affiliated with businesses engaged in corrupt financial transactions with officials in the government of President Daniel Ortega, his party or his family.”
RENACER A bipartisan effort
The bill was led by Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It also has the support of Republican Marco Rubio, Senator from Florida, and Democrats Tim Kaine, Dick Durbin, Ben Cardin, and Chris Murphy.
“The RENACER Act makes clear that the United States will not tolerate the rise of another dictator in our hemisphere. This new legislation fully aligns US diplomacy and sanctions towards one goal—democratic elections in Nicaragua in November 2021,” Menendez said.
“As the Ortega regime’s human rights abuses, kleptocracy, and attacks on the free press continue unabated, this bill places the US Senate firmly on the side of the Nicaraguan people,” added the senator from New Jersey.
“I’m proud to join my colleagues on a bipartisan basis to condemn the actions of President Ortega and Nicaraguan security officials and call on them to commit to a credible election later this year and a peaceful resolution of Nicaragua’s political crisis which they helped create,” Senator Durbin highlighted about the bill.
Alliance with diplomatic partners
Senator Rubio stated that “as the regime plans to hold elections, we must ensure the US and our allies are creating new initiatives to address Ortega’s corruption, human rights abuses, and the on-going repression of members of the independent press.”
“The United States and the international community should boost efforts to ensure that the people of Nicaragua can freely express their opinions, and engage in peaceful political activities,” Senator Kaine stressed.
The RENACER Act proposes that the Biden Administration carry out “diplomatic efforts” with the Governments of Canada, the European Union (UE) and Latin American and Caribbean countries “to impose selective sanctions” against citizens who obstruct the Nicaraguan elections.
Between 2019 and 2020, Canada, the European Union and Switzerland have followed in the footsteps of the United States, sanctioning some regime officials accused of corruption and human rights violations.
Financial Institutions and Russia
The RENACER Act also expands the supervision of loans and assistance granted by international financial institutions—the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—to Nicaragua. This aspect is already contemplated in the Nica Act, signed in December 2018 by then-President Donald Trump.
The Act calls to “take all possible steps to increase scrutiny on any loan or financial or technical assistance provided for a project in Nicaragua to ensure that the loan or assistance is being used for the intended purposes.”
The text clarifies that any suspension should not impact projects related to “basic human needs of the people of Nicaragua.”
The bill also demands that the State Department prepare intelligence reports on the influence and activities of the Russian Government in Nicaragua.
These reports should contain details on the cooperation of military personnel between Russia and Nicaragua; Russian intelligence services, security forces and private security contractors; telecommunications and satellite navigation. As well as “the threats and risks that such activities pose to United States national interests and national security,” according to the document.
Reactions in Nicaragua
The presidential candidate and former Nicaraguan Ambassador to the United States, Arturo Cruz, posted on Twitter that the bill “has very serious consequences from the point of view of strengthening existing sanctions and coordinating all levels of the United States Government to promote free elections.”
He explained that “by being introduced to the Foreign Relations Committee, on the first session of Congress, its approval is guaranteed, even if it is under an ordinary procedure. However, it is most likely that it will be approved by unanimous consent in both houses (Senate and Representatives).”
Cruz anticipates that the project will be “on the desk of President Joe Biden to be signed between May and June, or even earlier.”
Mauricio Diaz, former Nicaraguan Ambassador to the OAS, pointed out that “it is a bipartisan agreement of senators aware of the serious political, economic and social situation and citizens’ insecurity, which recommends more sanctions on institutions such as the Army, in order to persuade the Ortega regime to accept the realization of free elections for a return to democracy.”