When does a country that has been drifting toward autocracy cross the line into dictatorship? In Nicaragua, the steady dismantling of democracy by President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, has been advancing for many years. But in the past couple of weeks, the Ortega-Murillo regime made a dramatic move that arguably crossed that hard-to-define line.
On Oct. 24, one of Ortega’s top advisers, Horacio Rocha, appeared at Nicaragua’s Supreme Court and essentially took possession of the court, placing it in the hands of the regime.
He began by formally announcing that the court’s chief of operations was being fired and placed under arrest. But that was just the start. The Nicaraguan judiciary’s top official, Supreme Court President Alba Luz Ramos, was then removed from her post. Ramos was already a devoted supporter of the regime, but perhaps not devoted enough.