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In a new article on Nicaragua, “The Uses of Sanctions in Foreign Policy: Nicaragua’s Elections 2021,” Richard E. Feinberg, professor at the University of California, San Diego, and former official in the White House and State and Treasury Departments, argues that the Biden administration and others in the international community face an urgent decision: “With a rational appraisal of [their] limited leverage, how far can they push [President Daniel] Ortega to yield some of his advantages?”

Presidential elections are scheduled for November 2021, and Feinberg states that President Ortega is unlikely to accept conditions that would ensure his defeat.  Nonetheless, he asks whether, in the absence of a level playing field, international actors can “press Ortega to lift restrictions on opposition political activity and the media and the safe return of exiles living abroad? What reforms in the electoral system might make it more difficult for Ortega to rig the results?”

Feinberg predicts that “Ortega will probably yield to international pressures to a degree,” and electoral conditions will be “a matter of intense negotiations between the international community, the Nicaraguan opposition (whether unified or fragmented), and Ortega.”  He notes that “if the opposition, currently fractured along generational and party lines, can unite behind a single attractive candidate, victory might just be within reach.”

About the Author

Richard Feinberg

Richard E. Feinberg

Professor Emeritus, University of California, San Diego
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Latin American Program

The Wilson Center’s prestigious Latin American Program provides non-partisan expertise to a broad community of decision makers in the United States and Latin America on critical policy issues facing the Hemisphere. The Program provides insightful and actionable research for policymakers, private sector leaders, journalists, and public intellectuals in the United States and Latin America. To bridge the gap between scholarship and policy action, it fosters new inquiry, sponsors high-level public and private meetings among multiple stakeholders, and explores policy options to improve outcomes for citizens throughout the Americas. Drawing on the Wilson Center’s strength as the nation’s key non-partisan forum, the Program serves as a trusted source of analysis and a vital point of contact between the worlds of scholarship and action.  Read more