Florida Delegation Backed Bill for the U.S. to Push for More Democratic Reforms in Nicaragua Gaining Traction

A proposal “to strategically align the United States’ diplomatic tools, including targeted sanctions, to advance democratic elections in Nicaragua in November 2021” backed by the Florida delegation is gaining steam on Capitol Hill.

Back in March, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ, introduced the “Reinforcing Nicaragua’s Adherence to Conditions for Electoral Reform (RENACER) Act” which “proposes new initiatives to address corruption by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s government and family, as well as human rights abuses perpetrated by Nicaraguan security forces” and “requires the U.S. government to increase sanctions coordination with Canada and the European Union, as well as bolster intelligence reporting on Russian activities in Nicaragua.”

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is backing the proposal. Other co-sponsors include U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Mary., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn.

“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 U.S. diplomacy and sanctions towards one goal — democratic elections in Nicaragua in November 2021,” Menendez said when he introduced the proposal. “As the Ortega regime’s human rights abuses, kleptocracy, and attacks on the free press continue unabated, this bill places the U.S. Senate firmly on the side of the Nicaraguan people as they seek to exercise their most fundamental democratic rights later this year.”

“As the corrupt Ortega regime continues to undermine democratic order and basic liberties, the U.S. must align our diplomatic efforts to the existing targeted sanctions against regime officials,” Rubio said. “As the regime plans to hold elections, we must ensure the U.S. and our allies are creating new initiatives to address Ortega’s corruption, human rights abuses, and the ongoing repression of members of the independent press.”

The bill was sent to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Menendez chairs. On Tuesday, the bill cleared the committee and it is now headed to the Senate floor.

“As he continues to shamelessly go after opposition leaders, Nicaragua’s business sector, and its civil society leaders, Daniel Ortega’s desperation to stay in power has cost him whatever remnants of legitimacy he had in the eyes of the international community,” Menendez said on Tuesday. “I am very grateful to have the Senate Foreign Relations Committee come together to send a loud and clear message today: There will be consequences for those trying to rob the Nicaraguan people of the opportunity to exercise their most fundamental democratic right to free and fair elections. The RENACER Act will provide the Biden administration the necessary diplomatic tools to help stabilize Nicaragua’s out-of-control electoral crisis, hopefully allowing Nicaraguans to move their country back toward democracy and the rule of law.”

“Our bipartisan bill requires sanctions against officials in the Ortega regime and a full investigation into the money the Nicaraguan Armed Forces have invested in the United States,” Rubio said. “Now that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved my bill, we will work to get it passed in the full Senate as soon as possible.”

Over on the other side of Capitol Hill, U.S. Rep. Albio Sires, D-NJ, , the chairman of the U.S. House Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, introduced the companion bill at the end of April. When he filed the bill, Sires offered a tip of the cap to former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the longtime South Florida congresswoman who was the first woman to lead the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“The United States government must use every foreign policy tool available to ensure free, fair, and competitive elections in Nicaragua. We should implement a results-oriented diplomatic strategy, in coordination with our allies, that aligns sanctions with specific outcomes in order to counter the Ortega regime’s efforts to use repression, persecution, and fear to prevent the Nicaraguan people from expressing their will at the ballot box. I am proud to join colleagues on both sides of the aisle in introducing this legislation, which builds on the NICA Act that I wrote with my good friend Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and which was passed into law in 2018. As with the NICA Act, this bill conveys to the Nicaraguan people that we will never stop fighting for them until their voices are heard.” said Sires.

The bill has strong support from the Florida delegation as U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., are co-sponsoring it.

“The brutal Ortega regime is harassing, persecuting, and repressing the Nicaraguan people to prevent a free and fair presidential election this November,” said Salazar. “I am so proud to join my colleague, Chairman Albio Sires, in introducing the RENACER Act to increase pressure on the Ortega regime and hold them accountable for their heinous actions. We must always stand with brave men and women fighting for freedom, democracy, and human rights in Nicaragua!”

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

 

KEVIN DERBY
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