South Florida Republicans Urge Pelosi to Let House Vote on Bill Targeting Ortega Regime in Nicaragua

Members of the Florida delegation on Capitol Hill are calling on U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to bring Sen. Bob Menendez’s, D-NJ, and U.S. Rep. Albio Sires’, D-NJ, proposal “to strategically align the United States’ diplomatic tools, including targeted sanctions, to advance democratic elections in Nicaragua in November 2021” to the House floor.

Back in March, Menendez 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, and it cleared it easily. At the start of August, the bill passed the Senate on a voice vote.

Sires, 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.

At the end of last week, Diaz-Balart and Salazar joined U.S. Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla., in sending a letter to Pelosi, urging her to let the House vote on the bill which cleared the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee at the end of July.

“With Nicaragua’s sham presidential election set to take place on November 7, the House of Representatives must condemn the assaults on democracy perpetrated by the Ortega regime. We must stand together to promote democracy in Latin America, and hold accountable the ruthless, anti-American dictators in the region. This has serious and direct consequences for the United States,” the members of the Florida delegation wrote.

Kevin Derby
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