A bipartisan group of House members is demanding an explanation of how the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are making efforts to promote democracy in Nicaragua.

In a letter led by senior House Foreign Affairs Committee member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the members said democracy "continues to be under threat in Nicaragua," chiefly from President Daniel Ortega.

"Daniel Ortega has repeatedly violated the Nicaraguan constitution in order to stay in power and now was granted new constitutional changes seeking to abolish the two-term limit for presidents, eliminate the requirement that a candidate must receive 35 percent of the popular vote to become president, and help Ortega rule by decree," the letter said.

It added that in 2009, Nicaragua's Supreme Court let Ortega run for reelection and said Ortega is serving a third term despite a rule in the country's constitution that says only two terms are allowed.

"We would like to receive an update on how USAID funds are being spent in Nicaragua to promote the democratic process, rule of law, build the capacity of civil society, and improve the corrupt electoral system," the members wrote. "We firmly believe that we must support the people of Nicaragua and their local organizations to empower them to seek real, substantive reforms in their pursuit to protect democratic principles."

The letter asks specifically what the State Department and USAID are doing to "ensure that democracy and the rule of law is upheld in Nicaragua." It also asks what efforts USAID has made to ensure U.S.-funded projects are having an effect in Nicaragua.

Signatories to the letter include Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), who chairs the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, other members of that subcommittee, and two members of the House Appropriations subcommittee on state and foreign operations.