European Parliament warns of proposed Nicaraguan laws

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution Thursday threatening sanctions if Nicaragua approves two proposed laws they say would repress free expression in the Central American nation.

The resolution targets Nicaragua’s proposed foreign agents law and a special law against cybercrimes.

The parliament’s resolution says that the laws “will worsen the climate of intimidation, threats and human rights violations” that have persisted since massive street protests against the government of President Daniel Ortega began in April 2018.

It also called for a delegation from the parliament to visit Nicaragua in advance of the planned November 2021 presidential elections. Ortega, in power since 2007, is expected to run for a fourth consecutive term.

Government opposition groups in Nicaragua celebrated the resolution.

“The resolution is forceful because it lays out the urgent need for Ortega to reverse course to re-establish democratic order and recover freedoms,” said Tamara Dávila Rivas, director of Blue and White National Unity, an opposition coalition.

Last month, Sandinista Front lawmakers presented two bills. One would establish prison penalties for using online platforms to spread false information or information that could raise alarm among people. The other seeks to monitor and control those who receive funding from abroad, including nongovernmental organizations and those working for foreign media outlets, by making them register as “foreign agents” and tracking the money they receive.

Ortega earlier announced that the government was preparing a law that would allow life terms in prison for “hate crimes,” a term the government has applied to actions by the opposition. Currently, Nicaragua’s longest prison sentence is 30 years. The European Parliament’s resolution also expressed opposition to that proposal.