Press Release

March 25, 2021
Cardin, Menendez, Rubio, Kaine, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Advance Democratic Elections in Nicaragua

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) in introducing new bipartisan 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 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 coordination with Canada and the European Union, as well as bolster intelligence reporting on Russian activities in Nicaragua. 

“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.” 

“The RENACER Act makes clear that the United States will not tolerate the rise of another dictator in our hemisphere. This new legislation fully aligns U.S. diplomacy and sanctions towards one goal — democratic elections in Nicaragua in November 2021,” Chairman Menendez said. “As the Ortega regime’s human rights abuses, kleptocracy, and attacks on the free press continue unabated, this bill places the U.S. Senate firmly on the side of the Nicaraguan people as they seek to exercise their most fundamental democratic rights later this year.”

“As the corrupt Ortega regime continues to undermine democratic order and basic liberties, the U.S. must align our diplomatic efforts to the existing targeted sanctions against regime officials,” Senator Rubio said. “As the regime plans to hold elections, we must ensure the U.S. and our allies are creating new initiatives to address Ortega’s corruption, human rights abuses, and the on-going repression of members of the independent press.”

“Nicaragua’s continued democratic decline — including new laws that obstruct citizen engagement and codify the persecution of political opponents — is alarming,” Senator Kaine said. “The United States and the international community should boost efforts to ensure that the people of Nicaragua can freely express their opinions, engage in peaceful political activity, and participate in free and fair elections in November 2021.”

“It is long overdue for Latin American autocrats like President Ortega to stop enriching themselves and their inner circle of corrupt enablers on the backs of their people and instead restore democratic norms,” said Senator Durbin. “I’m proud to join with my colleagues on a bipartisan basis to condemn President Ortega’s and Nicaraguan security officials’ actions and call on them to commit to a credible election later this year and a peaceful resolution of Nicaragua’s political crisis which they helped create.”

“Since his re-election in 2016, President Ortega has driven the country away from democracy while the Nicaraguan people have paid the price. As the Biden administration works to put human rights and democracy at the center of U.S. foreign policy, the RENACER Act allows us to coordinate the existing, targeted sanctions on Nicaraguan officials with our allies and help advance free and fair elections there later this year. This legislation strengthens our ability to reverse corruption, human rights abuses and limits on a free press in Nicaragua,” 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;
  • 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; 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.