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People attend a march honoring children killed during protests in Managua, Nicaragua, on June 30, 2018. Photo: Marvin Recinos/AFP via Getty Images.

Since late April, massive street protests have rocked Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's authoritarian regime, demanding his ouster. Ignoring calls for early elections and derailing peace talks with the civilian opposition alliance, Ortega has used police and paramilitary forces in a bid to win back the streets through brute force.

Why it matters: Regime repression has left over 200 dead and the economy is forecasted to shrink dramatically as a result of the unrest. Despite recent U.S. sanctions, the crisis will likely continue, with adverse consequences in Nicaragua and beyond.

The background: In the 1980s, Ortega was a key figure in the left-wing Sandinista Revolution. Since his election in 2006, however, he has abandoned his socialist ideology and implemented pro-business and socially conservative policies. With tacit support from his former foes in the country’s business elite, he brought all branches of government under his control. Nicaraguans acquiesced mostly because the regime brought stability and economic growth. But after a decade of sham elections and intolerance for dissent, tensions brewing beneath the surface boiled over.

While Ortega has gained some ground by using shock troops to clear the protestors' roadblocks and barricades, he also faces mounting pressures. U.S. sanctions, on their own, are not expected to have a major effect. But they add to the regime’s growing diplomatic isolation. The economic downturn and rising crime are weakening the government’s already scant popular support.

The military remains the X factor: It has not participated in the repression, nor has it disarmed the paramilitary bands that now roam the streets. Whether Ortega succeeds in quashing dissent, or is instead forced to make concessions, will likely depend on the armed forces.

What's next: Until recently, Nicaragua enjoyed relative stability and security compared with its drug-dominated neighbors in Central America's Northern Triangle. The deteriorating situation could create an opening for international organized crime and threatens to spawn a refugee crisis that would affect the whole region.

Mateo Jarquín is a doctoral candidate in the department of history at Harvard University.

Go deeper

Oath Keepers leader denied bail on Capitol riot sedition charge

Oath Keepers co-founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

A federal judge ordered Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes to remain jailed Wednesday until trial on charges stemming from the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: The judge said the most prominent far-right figure charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection had access to weapons and his alleged "continued advocacy for violence against the federal government" gave credence to prosecutors' view that, if released, Rhodes could endanger others.

Who in Congress is talking about Ukraine the most

Data: Quorum; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Mentions of Ukraine or Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in congressional statements and social media posts have been on the rise — with nearly 1,000 already this month, according to data from Quorum.

Why it matters: The growing threat of a Russian invasion has been mirrored by a growth in Ukraine-related chatter.

GOP to use Supreme Court fight to target vulnerable Dems

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Conservatives know they're unlikely to stop President Biden from filling a Supreme Court vacancy, but they plan to target Senate Democrats who face competitive re-election fights and are all but certain to vote for the successor to Justice Stephen Breyer.

Between the lines: The general strategy will be to tie those Democrats to positions seen as political liabilities in states like Arizona, Georgia and New Hampshire, where incumbents are seeking re-election this year, an operative briefed on early strategy talks told Axios.