U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen say Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega must face consequences after protests of his regime turned deadly this weekend.
A new wave of violence broke out late last week as anti-Ortega protesters clashed with the government. The Nicaraguan Bishop’s Conference tells the BBC that one man died when police and paramilitary forces on Friday evening assaulted a Managua church where 150 students had converged.
Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican, on Friday called Ortega a coward in a Spanish-language tweet. She condemned the regime and called for the international community to take action in response to the violence.
#Ortega sigue demostrando q es un cobarde q se esconde detrás d caos y armas p rehusarse a dejar el poder. Condeno acciones d su régimen en contra d estudiantes en #UNAN. La comunidad internacional tiene q tomar acción en contra d esta violencia y violaciones d #DDHH n #Nicaragua
— Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (@RosLehtinen) July 14, 2018
Rubio said Ortega should consider himself on notice. “If his violence leads to a bloodbath he will face consequences,” he tweeted Friday.
Rubio also said that he had spoken with Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada Colindres weeks ago, personally telling him an “opportunity still existed to avoid cycle of conflict with U.S. if they held early & fair elections. But Ortega/Murillo regime responded with more violence making very clear the path they have chosen.”
The tweet referenced Rasio Murillo, Ortega’s wife and vice president.
Several wks ago I personally told #Nicaragua F.M. Denis Moncada Colindres that opportunity still existed to avoid cycle of conflict with U.S. if they held early & fair elections. But Ortega/Murillo regime responded with more violence making very clear the path they have chosen
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 14, 2018
Rubio said he was closely monitoring the situation and awaited news of a promised release of students, journalists and clergy still trapped inside the church.
Nelson also tweeted in Spanish on Friday that the Nicaraguan people face repression from the Ortega regime. He expressed fear the country could follow the same path as Venezuela under President Nicolas Maduro.
El pueblo de #Nicaragua enfrenta la represión del régimen de Ortega y los atroces actos de violencia en contra de sus propios ciudadanos. Debemos responsabilizar a los culpables y detenerlos antes de que sigan el camino del régimen de Maduro en Venezuela. https://t.co/I9cZGyRunH
— Bill Nelson (@NelsonForSenate) July 13, 2018
And Florida Gov. Rick Scott chimed in as well, echoing concern that Nicaragua and Venezuela were on the same path to totalitarianism, while also expressing his belief that Cuba’s fate could be tied to that of those nations.
Yesterday I said that until Cuba is on a path toward democracy, countries like Venezuela and Nicaragua will remain on a path toward totalitarianism. https://t.co/Io5bYAF50m
— Rick Scott (@ScottforFlorida) July 14, 2018
“What we are seeing in Nicaragua this weekend is scary,” he added. “We have to stand with the people of Nicaragua who desperately want freedom and safety.”
Violent protests in Nicaragua in April resulted in nearly 30 deaths, the deadliest political conflict in the nation since the close of the Nicaraguan Revolution, according to The New York Times.
Ros-Lehtinen in June led a Congressional effort urging President Donald Trump’s administration to strongly support the Nicaraguan people resisting totalitarianism. She and U.S. Rep. Albio Sires, a New Jersey Democrat, penned a bipartisan, bicameral letter calling for action.
“We are calling on the Administration to target additional regime officials for designation under the law, so that Ortega and his cronies feel the real impact of their brutal policies,” the letter reads.
Eight other federal lawmakers signed onto the letter, including fellow Floridians Rubio, Nelson and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
The State Department announced new sanctions on Nicaragua on July 5.