Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega declared the ambassador of the EU to Managua, Bettina Muscheid, ‘persona non-grata’ on 29 September 2022 for allegedly interfering and disrespecting the country’s national sovereignty. Tensions escalated after Muscheid requested Ortega to free political prisoners in Nicaragua.
The move was Ortega’s latest clash with Western diplomats in recent weeks, in which he broke ties with the Netherlands for reportedly offending Nicaraguan families and refused entry to the new US ambassador. Ortega accused Christine Pirenne, the Dutch ambassador to Central America, to treat Nicaragua like a colony after the Netherlands refused to fund a USD 215 million hospital. Similarly, Rosario Murillo, Vice-President of Nicaragua and Ortega’s wife, said that the US envoy Hugo Rodríguez would not be allowed in the country for having previously labelled Ortega’s government as a dictatorship.
A Mexican diplomat with 20 years’ experience dealing with Nicaragua explained Ortega’s thought process, “Ortega is paranoid and terrified that the international community may attempt to force some kind of regime change because he knows that he could be imprisoned and accused of serious crimes against humanity.”
“Ortega is paranoid and terrified that the international community may attempt to force some kind of regime change.”
Former diplomat, Mexico
Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, deemed Ortega’s decision as unjustified and hostile. He added that the EU would respond firmly and proportionally to Ortega’s move. Nevertheless, Brussels does not appear ready to severe commercial ties with Managua which would imply the exclusion of Nicaragua from the EU trade agreements with Central American countries.
A former Nicaraguan diplomat commented, “The saddest part of this is that the victims will be innocent Nicaraguan citizens who will no longer have access to EU aid. To make matters worse, aid that used to come from Russia has been stopped following the outbreak of the War with Ukraine. The country can survive with help from China, Venezuela, Cuba, and Bolivia but it will be horrible for the people.”
“The saddest part of this is that the victims will be innocent Nicaraguan citizens who will no longer have access to EU aid.”
Former diplomat, Nicaragua
Since Ortega’s violent crackdown on the 2018 protests, the EU has maintained a severe sanctions regime mostly targeted to Nicaraguan government officials and the President’s inner circle. Borrell has often described Ortega’s regime as “one of the worse dictatorships in the world” and the EU institutions have continuously filed formal complaints on repression of political opposition members, violation of human rights, and repression of dissidents.
“The international community is concerned that Ortega will only leave with bloodshed,” explained the Nicaraguan diplomat, “before that, we could see the whole affair escalate to the point that Nicaragua leaves the UN! Ortega is an autocrat and has lost his democratic and rational judgement. More than a political animal, he is a cornered beast who knows that the end is coming soon and therefore has nothing to lose in his game of diplomatic and political madness.”
By cutting relations with the EU, Ortega plans to express his discontent with Brussel’s political criticism while leaving a door open to Nicaragua’s bilateral relations with its member states and continuing to advance his own economic interests. Good luck!