Press Release

August 6, 2021
Senate Approves Bipartisan Legislation to Bolster U.S. Engagement in Nicaragua as Crisis Deepens

RENACER Act requires heightened efforts to confront blatant anti-democratic activity by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was joined by Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, and Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in issuing the following statements after the Senate approved their legislation to dramatically increase U.S. diplomatic engagement in response to the government of Daniel Ortega’s continued use of repressive tactics to intimidate, inhibit or arrest every aspiring opposition candidate ahead of the scheduled elections in November.

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 that are undermining prospects for democratic elections in Nicaragua, and expand sanctions coordination with Canada and the European Union. The bill also calls for the executive branch to open a formal review to determine whether Nicaragua should be allowed continued 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).

“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 that we are taking the necessary 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.”  

“This is a day of forceful action, the day when the U.S. Senate is saying Daniel Ortega’s paranoia of losing at the ballot box is no excuse for his systematic dismantling of Nicaragua’s democratic system. Today, we make clear that Ortega’s brazen gambit to shackle anybody that dares challenge him will not pay off, and, in fact, our commitment to deliver hope and opportunity to the people of Nicaragua is only beginning,” said Chairman Menendez. “As we shine a spotlight on the spiraling state of affairs in Nicaragua, I will not stop calling for the end of political persecution, including efforts to silence opposition leaders like Arturo Cruz, Cristiana Chamorro, Felix Maradiaga, and Juan Sebastian Chamorro. Governments in our hemisphere and throughout the world must stand in solidarity with the citizens of Nicaragua and against the consolidation of a third tin-pot dictatorship in Latin America.”

“I welcome the Senate’s passage of our bipartisan bill, RENACER. With this unanimous vote, the U.S. is sending an unequivocal message of support to the Nicaraguan people. Our nation must use all tools to hold accountable the repressive Ortega regime, and his family, accountable. I urge the House of Representative to swiftly pass this bill,” said Senator Rubio.

“The U.S. must continue to take action against the Ortega regime for its ongoing arrests of political rivals and violence against opposition leaders,” said Senator Kaine. “As Chair of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, I’m proud our legislation has passed this crucial milestone to send the people of Nicaragua a strong message that we stand with them in their quest for democracy and freedom.”

“The RENACER Act allows us to target Nicaraguan officials who seek to derail the country’s electoral process and protect democracy—a key tenet of U.S. foreign policy. By passing this legislation, the United States Senate sends a clear signal that we stand with the Nicaraguan people, and I look forward to getting this bill signed into law,” said Senator Murphy

 “The Ortega regime’s campaign to dismantle democratic institutions and criminalize opposition has stripped the people of Nicaragua of their fundamental rights,” said Senator Cruz. “The bipartisan support of the RENACER Act shows the United States of America stands unequivocally with the brave Nicaraguans calling for their freedom.”

The RENACER Act includes the following elements:

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);

Expands oversight of international financial institutions’ lending to Nicaragua and reaffirms the existing statutory waiver for humanitarian projects;

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.