The Wall Street Journal reports that in 2020, Nicaragua sent nearly two-thirds of its total exports to the United States, worth around $3.5 billion. With the United States as its main trading partner, the reduction in sugar quotas poses a serious threat to Nicaragua’s economy. The Associated Press adds that the sugar sector represents around 4% of Nicaragua’s gross national product, providing jobs for around 150,000 people.
The decision to remove Nicaragua from the list is just the latest in a series of moves by the Biden administration to pressure Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. Other measures include the exclusion of Nicaragua from the Summit of the Americas last June, according to the Wall Street Journal, as well as the imposition of sanctions on ENIMINAS, a state-owned mining company (via state.gov). The Journal explains that Ortega, as the White House statement suggests, is widely seen as an authoritarian leader, winning the presidency by a sham vote, and he has cultivated close ties with another perceived autocrat in Russia, Vladimir Putin. . To that end, Ortega championed Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and, according to an AP report from June 2022 even allowed Russian troops to train in Nicaragua.
The United States hopes that any action against Nicaragua will force Ortega to take responsibility for his actions and his alliances, but only time will tell if the effort succeeds.