Mar 31, 2022 - World

More Nicaraguans facing political upheaval at home flee to U.S.

Number of Customs and Border Protection encounters with Nicaraguans
Data: U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

More Nicaraguans are fleeing their country than in past years, seeking refuge in neighboring Costa Rica as well as in the U.S. and Mexico.

Why it matters: The Nicaraguan exodus has ramped up as President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, have again cracked down on dissent.

  • Ortega and Murillo were declared winners of widely criticized elections in November, after most other candidates were jailed.

Driving the news: Arturo McFields Yescas, Nicaraguan ambassador to the Organization of American States and a former supporter, called Ortega a dictator last week, saying he could no longer keep quiet.

  • Yesterday he told the Wilson Center, a research think tank, that although he doesn’t regret speaking out, he fears for his family.
  • Nicaragua's secretary of foreign affairs disavowed him.

By the numbers: Customs and Border Protection has encountered over 63,000 Nicaraguans at the U.S. border this fiscal year, more than during all of FY2021, according to agency data.

  • About 150,000 Nicaraguans have fled to Costa Rica since 2018, half of them in the last eight months alone, according to the UN refugee agency.
  • The number of Nicaraguan asylum seekers has grown by 300% in Mexico, according to the Mexican office for refugees.

Between the lines: The UN warned recently that the sharp increase means the Costa Rican asylum system could soon be overwhelmed.

  • Anti-immigrant sentiment is also growing in the small Central American nation.

Zoom out: Mass migration from Central America, especially from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, has been on an upswing for years, driven by economic instability, violence and climate change.

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