The Nicaraguan regime appears to be extending its intensifying wave of repression beyond the country’s borders. Last Saturday, the exiled Nicaraguan pro-democracy activist Joao Maldonado, 34, was nearly killed when a man on a motorcycle fired multiple rounds into the car he was riding in Costa Rica, striking him in the chest and other parts of his body. Maldonado remains in critical condition in a San Jose hospital. And although no perpetrator has been identified, suspicions have fallen on Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, whose transformation from independence hero to brutal dictator shows no sign of abating.
Maldonado is a well-known leader of the opposition movement and the community of Nicaraguan exiles. He helped organize the 2018 pro-democracy protests that the regime—led by Ortega, his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, and their children—crushed violently, killing an estimated 450 civilians.
In the aftermath of that turmoil, some 80,000 Nicaraguans, including Maldonado, fled to exile in neighboring Costa Rica. There, he was one of the founders of the Union of Exiled Nicaraguans, or UEN, an activist group. The Nicaraguan community in Costa Rica has reportedly swelled in recent months, as security forces crack down even harder on the opposition ahead of the upcoming November election. That’s when Ortega plans to secure his fourth consecutive term as president.