al jazeera, tripoli. ♪ host: it's good to have you with us. the headlines on al jazeera. the w.h.o. is warning of an approaching tidal wave of coronavirus infections in europe. this is more than half of people there are likely to be infected by the omicron variant in the next two months. more people in the u.s. than ever before. -- in the u.s. in the hospital with covid-19 than ever before. quebec could soon be the first canadian province to tax adults
not vaccinated against the coronavirus. the premier said the unvaccinated are placing a financial burden on the health care system. he announced plans for those without a medical exception to pay a health care contribution. covid-19 hospitalizations in canada surged with the spread of the omicron variant. u.s. president biden called for voting rights reforms to expand access to polls. democrats allege that republican states are trying to suppress black and other democratic leaning voters. biden wants the senate to abandon its super majority rule to pass the bills. pres. biden: the right to vote is democracy's threshold of liberty. without it, nothing is possible, but with it anything is possible. while the denial of free and
fair elections is undemocratic, it is not unprecedented. host: kazakhstan's president says russian troops will begin pulling out within 48 hours with a full withdrawal expected in 10 days. at least 160 people have been killed and 10,000 detained in days of antigovernment protests. farmers in northern sudan blocked a main road link with egypt, leaving hundreds of vehicles stranded. they demonstrated for a third consecutive day against higher electricity prices. the ruling military counsel promised to review the changes to power tariffs. we will have more news on al jazeera after "inside story" next. ♪
>> nicaragua's president starts a fourth consecutive term after an election the west called a sham. critics say daniel ortega is a dictator, but his supporters reject this. what is next for one of the poorest tions in central america? this is "inside story." ♪ host: hello and welcome to the program. to some, daniel ortega is a dictator who ruthlessly crushed all dissent in nicaragua. he won a fourth straight term as president after jailing opposition candidates and banning international observers. supporters say he is standing up to bullying from the west.
the u.s. and eu imposed new sentients. most countries stayed away from the ceremony. ortega found support from russia and china. nicaragua switched diplomatic ties from -- switched diplomatic ties to beijing. >> this was daniel ortega's fourth consecutive swearing-in so money. he -- swearing-in ceremony. he vowed to improve conditions in nicaragua, the second poorest country in central america next to haiti. >> we are here to assure nicaraguans have a dignified life, to eradicate poverty in this country with sovereignty and freedom. correspondent: the president of cuba and venezuela were there, and also deliberations from iran -- also delegations from iran and china. but ortega was snubbed by almost everyone else.
november's elections have been dismissed as illegitimate by much of the international community. the majority of ortega's opponents were imprisoned so they could not run. >> legitimacy is not an issue for ortega. he managed to essentially consummate his plan to establish a full and classic latin american detailer ship in nicaragua. -- dictatorship in nicaragua. correspondent: the european union and u.s. announced sanctions against high-ranking military and communications officials, as well as members of the ortega family. an exiled opponent, a former sandinista commander who once fought alongside ortega, questions their effectiveness. >> they demonstrate that the international community realizes what is happening in nicaragua
and that is why it imposes sanctions. they have a moral effect, but in practical terms they will have little effect. correspondent: while ortega celebrated his latest inauguration, some 170 political prisoners languished in what human rights advocates describe as cruel and inhumane conditions. one is this lawyer. >> my husband is losing his memory and is in a deep depression after spending more than 100 days in a punishment isolation cell. he cannot remember the names or faces of our daughters. correspondent: ortega may know -- made no mention about dialogue with his political opponents. that may explain why most nicaraguans who al jazeera consulted about the inauguration preferred to say nothing at all. host: daniel ortega is now in the 15th year of his second
stint in office. it simmons his fourth term in a row -- cements his fourth term in a row. he came to power as a sandinista guerrilla commander who became president in 1985. he lost then returned to power in 2007 and has been president ever since. he consolidated his control using silence and dissent while elevating loyalists to high positions. the pandemic led to a mass exodus of people from nicaragua to the border of the u.s. in the next -- in the past few years. ortega has been blamed for not doing enough to strengthen the economy. ♪ let's bring in our guests. a professor of latin american and caribbean studies. a director of exec at of education and graduate studies
at northwestern university in qatar. in washington dc, the president of inter-american dialogue. a warm welcome and thanks for joining the program. hours before the nicaraguan president was inaugurated, the u.s. and eu imposed sanctions on members of his government. who was targeted and how were they targeted? >> this has been a continuation of a policy of targeting officials of the government for human rights violations. as your setup report indicated, there are political prisoners in nicaragua, a substantial number, all the candidates for november's elections are in jail. this is a highly repressive autocratic regime.
those who havve been -- have been responsible for human rights violations, senior officials in the government, have been sanctioned. that is the policy to try to apply pressure by the u.s. and european union against these officials. theree is a v-- there is a very serious human rights crisis in nicaragua, the likes of which latin america has not seen for many years. that has been the response. whether that changes the situation at all on the ground remains to be seen, but certainly there are those responsible for this terrible situation and they have been sentient. -- been sanctioned. host: the international community issued sanctions against ortega's government in the past. were those sanctions in the past in any way effective?
do you think these sanctions issued before the inauguration will be effective? >> i agree with the assessment of ortega being somebody who is now in the realm of autocracy. nobody who puts in prison every single opponent that can run against him in a national election can be called a democrat. that is precisely what he does. ortega has a different base to that of other autocrats in the region like maduro or the castros in cuba. the economy in nicaragua has not done as bad. to latin america standards, that is actually good. there has been a reduction in poverty.
[indiscernible] there has been some stability. they have been skillful in developing international networks. for example, he closed relationships with taiwan and established one with china. that came with lots of aid and commercial trade with china, which is now buying lots of nicaraguan products. given -- [indiscernible] the other base of power that ortega has is since the sandinista revolution, the ortegas never relinquished power.
even when an opponent won elections in 1990, ortega's brother stayed as the head of the armed forces. that group of the sandinistas over the armed forces has competed today. he governs in the same way that maduro does. which is why don't think the sanctions will be that effective. host: you heard talk about the alliances between president ortega and the venezuelan and cuban president. the venezuelan and cuban president were at the inauguration to show support. china, russia, iran also sent delegations. there is talk about international isolation, but ortega still has support as well, correct? >> correct. we don't live in that same unipolar world of 1991 after the collapse of the soviet union.
nicaragua does not depend on the u.s. u.s. sanctions at this point are not going to be as cruel as they have been in the past against cuba and venezuela. we now have this polar world, china as a camp, russia, the bolivar ian countries -- boli varian countries, peru. i don't think these blockades, one fourth of the people in the world wake up under u.s. blockades. cuba was not left with trading partners in 1991. host: antony blinken said the u.s. and its partners will deploy diplomatic and economic tools to restore democracy and respect for human rights in nicaragua. what else by the u.s. can be done at this point?
what kind of pressure can be applied by the u.s. and other countries to make a difference? >> i think that is very difficult, frankly. this is a regime that is quite entrenched. i agree with the analysis that the armed forces is a pillar of ortega's support. i don't think he is popular. the polls i have seen joan he is -- seen shown he is 25% of nicaraguans that support him. he has cemented tied -- ties with the people's republic of china. he does rely on russia. the fact of the matter is the situation is deteriorating. 170,000 nicaraguans left in the last year, about 80,000 of those to the united states. that is unprecedented.
people are fleeing the regime. it is a widespread sense of fear and terror. in that context, the tools available are not great. sanctions, i don't disagree with what has been said. it's unclear how effective they are going to be. i understand they are being invoked and applied, but i'm not confident that is going to make the change in his behavior. i think international pressure is important, it is good, but we know from experience that international pressure is only successful to the extent that there is an internal national opposition force in nicaragua. today that opposition force is largely in jail. the leaders are in jail with no due process, with no serious
charges, with a justice system completely controlled by the repressive regime. there needs to be a regrouping of some sort of opposition force internally. the role that external actors can play is limited, but it can be helpful to that end. i think more can be done with the organization of american states. i think there could be more pressure internally. one other thing that i think is important, you mentioned honduras. honduras will have a new government. that government i think will be less supportive of ortega than the previous government. that may affect nicaraguan's ability to get funds and financing from the central
american bank with the change in government of honduras. there are pressures from financial institutions and diplomatically that can make a difference, but it is extremely difficult. host: i saw you nodding when michael was talking about their needs to be some regrouping when it comes to the opposition in nicaragua. i want to ask if you think that is possible in the short or long-term. >> let me be clear for those who still depend on the ortega or cuban or venezuelan regime. if there was a transparent and open election in any of these countries, the government would lose to anybody. having said that, ortega is a different creature to maduro and castro in the sense that he does
have a segment of support. his support is a bit higher than other autocrats in the region. having said that, there is no doubt, zero doubt, it is a factual truth that if there was an open and transparent election, ortega would lose, which is why he put in prison every sink one of the persons who could compete -- every single one of the persons who could compete against him in the elections. sanctions work. people always try to dismiss sanctions. let's remember that sanctions were the tools that enable us to get rid of the apartheid in south africa. nobody wants violence in this case, but there is the need for
the international community to act quickly to counter ortega. the united states continues to be the main provider of food of nicaragua. the latest report from the united states and culture department highlights the fact that there is a record increase in particularly grain to nicaragua in the previous year. this is a fact. the u.s. sanctions will have an effect on nicaragua, there is no doubt. the question is more the european union. the chinese, the iranians are too far away. host: i'm sorry to interrupt. let me get back to the point about the other sanctions in the moment. he was just saying if elections
had been held properly, that president ortega would have lost. i want to ask you what your viewpoint is on that. how popular is ortega in nicaragua right now? are there credible achievements being ignored by the international community? >> i feel like the other guests contextualized recent nicaraguan history. the u.s. has done everything to intervene in nicaragua. there was the 1980's contra war, one of the greatest crimes of the 20 century. a proxy war, where bandits and terrorists with u.s. backing, some related to ngo's who at least on the surface -- they
attacked sandinista homes. it is nicaragua's right to protect itself through the armed forces and police against these would-be coup mongers. nicaragua continues to develop women's projects. i have been traveling to nicaragua since 2005 and i see something completely different than what the other guests described. host: i saw you reacting to what was said. >> it's basically saying that every counter opposition is a cia agent or something. this is what people say about these regimes, that everything is a conspiracy. i am absolutely aware of the history. you want to talk about u.s. intervention, no one wants a u.s. intervention. none of these candidates are
members of the cia. many of them were legitimate or even left-wing candidates. and they are all in prison. how can you explain that? are you saying all of them are cia agents? >> an individual was a terrorist. she bumped buildings and had trucks of armed bandits. the u.s. would put those individuals in jail, or maybe they wouldn't in the case of january 6, but no one is allowed to lead a violent coup against the democratically elected government. host: let me ask you, at his inauguration, president ortega announced nicaragua and china just signed a series of strategic agreements that would officially incorporate nicaragua into beijing's global belt and road initiative as well as other trade programs. how much will that help nicaragua and how much does that concern the united states? >> there are global tensions
with china. i think china's increasing expansion in all of latin america is something that is high on the agenda of political policy in the united states. the united states has to be competitive with china. i think that the prospects for economic development are not great no matter who is involved in nicaragua given the incredible deterioration in the country. if people are leaving in droves, it's turned into a complete police turned into a complete -- it's turned into a complete police state. these are economic conditions that will decline. i think the china shift is more
geopolitical. there could be major projects that china provides in nicaragua like it has done in other countries, but this is no substitute for economic development. if you are interested in the improvement of people's living standards, this is not a formula to do it. this is a police state. it turned into a pariah. you may defend it, but on principle and the dignity of the nicaraguans, the humanitarian conditions there are dire and are only likely to get worse. one has to focus on the nicaraguan people. they would not be leaving in droves like they are today if not for the economic problems and political repression and people just being very frightened. host: it looked like you were
reacting to what michael was saying when he talked about the worsening humanitarian and economic crises. >> whenever we talk about the subject of migration, we have to put it in its proper context, which is centuries of colonialism. the reality that the money north is worth more than in nicaragua. i see something different than the constant vilification we get from the new york times, cnn and fox. i see a nicaraguan people that continue to build an alternative, anticapitalist system. i see nicaragua fortified every day by these relationships with vietnam, china, russia. no longer can the u.s. control the world and realize its unipolar hegemonic dreams because of this constant growing unity. we see venezuela finding russia,
russia finding nicaragua and on and on. host: we have talked in this program about the countries that have taken a stance against president ortega. are there other countries that are trying to make diplomatic inroads with ortega and trying to sway him through diplomacy? >> the big player, the person who can have an impact, open-door has been -- obrador h as been an open ally of ortega, although they recently had a rift. they did send a representative. obdrador will have an important role to play in trying to bring ortega back to the table. i want to make two additional points.
first, the role of china. paradoxically, china could be detrimental to nicaragua. the biggest nicaraguan project is a second canal which will unify the pacific and atlantic to nicaragua. the people who are less interested in that project are the chinese. host: i am very sorry, we have run out of time. thanks so much to all of our guests. and thank you too for watching. you can see the program any time by visiting our website. and go to our facebook page. you can also join the conversation on twitter. for the whole team here, bye for now. ♪
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