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Committee Approves RENACER Act to Hold Ortega Regime Accountable for Subverting Democracy in Nicaragua

WASHINGTON –  U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was joined by Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, and Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) in issuing the following statements after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved their legislation to strategically align the United States’ diplomatic tools, including targeted sanctions, to advance democratic elections in Nicaragua in November 2021.

Entitled the Reinforcing Nicaragua’s Adherence to Conditions for Electoral Reform (RENACER) Act, the legislation proposes new initiatives to monitor, report on, and address corruption by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s government and family, as well as human rights abuses perpetrated by Nicaraguan security forces. The RENACER Act also requires the United States government to increase sanctions on key actors in the Ortega regime and expand coordination with Canada and the European Union. The bill calls for the executive branch to review Nicaragua’s participation in the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Additionally, the bill requires increased intelligence reporting on Russian activities in Nicaragua and a review of Russian arms sales to Nicaragua for potential sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Following today’s committee approval, the legislation now heads to the Senate Floor for consideration by the full Senate.

“As he continues to shamelessly go after opposition leaders, Nicaragua’s business sector, and its civil society leaders, Daniel Ortega’s desperation to stay in power has cost him whatever remnants of legitimacy he had in the eyes of the international community,” Chairman Menendez said. “I am very grateful to have the Senate Foreign Relations Committee come together to send a loud and clear message today: There will be consequences for those trying to rob the Nicaraguan people of the opportunity to exercise their most fundamental democratic right to free and fair elections. The RENACER Act will provide the Biden administration the necessary diplomatic tools to help stabilize Nicaragua’s out-of-control electoral crisis, hopefully allowing Nicaraguans to move their country back toward democracy and the rule of law.”

“Our bipartisan bill requires sanctions against officials in the Ortega regime and a full investigation into the money the Nicaraguan Armed Forces have invested in the United States,” Senator Rubio said. “Now that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved my bill, we will work to get it passed in the full Senate as soon as possible.”

“There must be accountability for Latin American autocrats, like President Ortega, who enrich themselves and their corrupt enablers at the expense of citizens and true democracy,” said Senator Durbin. “I’m glad to see the Foreign Relations Committee take this bipartisan step forward in condemning President Ortega’s actions and the gross human rights abuses perpetrated by government officials. We must levy U.S. resources, including sanctions, to see the release of all political prisoners, including opposition candidates, and help resolve Nicaragua’s political crisis with a credible, democratic election.”

“We must continue to press for a return to democracy and support free, fair, and transparent elections in Nicaragua,” said Senator Cardin. “I am proud to support this bill that would take additional steps to hold the Ortega government accountable for its many acts of repression and corruption that continue to harm the Nicaragua people. The United States must always stand up for democracy and human rights throughout the Western Hemisphere.”

“Protecting democracy must be central to U.S. foreign policy. The RENACER Act helps us stand with the Nicaraguan people and target Nicaraguan officials who seek to undermine the electoral process in the country. I’m glad to see this bipartisan bill advancing to the Senate floor,” said Senator Murphy.

The RENACER Act includes the following elements:

  • Expands oversight of international financial institutions’ lending to Nicaragua and reaffirms the existing statutory waiver for humanitarian projects;
  • Aligns U.S. diplomacy and targeted sanctions to promote democratic elections, including a review of key Nicaraguans that have dismantled prospects for free, fair, and transparent elections;
  • Calls for the executive branch to review Nicaragua’s continued participation in the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA);
  • Requires sanctions coordination with Canada and the European Union;
  • Adds Nicaragua to the list of Central American countries subject to corruption-related visa restrictions;
  • Requires classified reporting on corruption perpetrated by President Ortega’s government and family, as well as Russian government activities in Nicaragua;
  • Requires reporting on Russian military sales to Nicaragua and a review for potential sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA); and
  • Requires reporting on human rights abuses committed by Nicaraguan security forces in rural and indigenous communities.

Find a section-by-section summary of the bill HERE.

Find the full text of the bill HERE.