Oscar René Vargas is a well known political analyst, now in exile in Costa Rica after the government ordered his arrest in July. He joined the FSLN in 1967 and was forced into exile during the Somoza regime that same year, after rescuing Ortega from a safe-house surrounded by Somoza´s military. He was named Nicaraguan Ambassador to France shortly after Ortega came back to power in 2007.
In the year 180 AD the Greek writer Lucian de Samósata in his short novel called “True History” wrote a story that captivated his followers. His story tells how Eucrates was able to secretly obtain the magic formula that a renowned Egyptian sorcerer used. The spell allowed him to give life to inanimate objects and put them at his service.
With the magic formula he made a broom go out to get water, but on concluding that task, the broom continued bringing in more water. On not being able to stop it, Eucrates, now desperate, cut it in two with an axe, only to discover that the two halves took on life, and continued their work until the house of the sorcerer was flooded.
The power of this cautionary tale drew the attention of Goethe, who in 1798 developed it in his poem Die Zauberlehrling, the sorcerer´s apprentice. The message of caution: you should not unleash forces that cannot be controlled.
Nicaraguan political history reveals that the message has not been heard, sooner or later dictatorships have always unleashed uncontrollable social and political forces. One example we find in the resignation and declarations of the ex Magistrate Rafael Solís.
The entire principal ring of power, from top officials to the last member of the social base of the party in power, are going to suffer the repercussions of Solís´ declarations. The decisión of Solís can push others to do the same. It is almost certain that now key officials will be watched. The Ortega-Murillo regime cannot control the repercussions of his desertion, nor do they have the capacity to prevent new desertions.
Cohesion and strength are basic for confronting the social and political rebellion of the self convoked from April; now Ortega has to deal with this desertion that puts him in a bind with his followers, now that distrust has come alive and will continue its work until the maintenance of the Ortega-Murillo regime becomes unsustainable.
Solís´ resignation has an immediate demoralizing effect for his social base, in addition to the legal, juridical effects that can be derived from his denouncement and criticism of the massacre, and the future behavior of the judges in the processes against political prisoners.
The resignation and denouncement of Rafael Solís was not just any act. It is a stake in the power center of the presidential couple, which helps to accelerate the implosion of the Ortega-Murillo regime. With the information from Solís, surely the blows of future sanctions will be more well aimed and directed.
The worldwide impact was immediate: The New York Times published the news, and many foreign newspapers did as well. Radio France International interviewed him, and all of them think that this is not an isolated event, new resignations are expected, and in this way the regime is going to run out of rope.
Ex magistrate Solís not only managed a coffer of secrets from all the legal and unconstitutional abuses that were done in the country, but he also was the trusted political operator of Ortega in the judicial system, and knows intimate details of power. He was a participant in and/or knew about all the most important political operations.
The adverse economic situation, the difficulties to process transition political agreements, the collapse of the power center, allowed for the reinforcement of the State of terror denounced by the IACHR, GIEI and ratified by Solís. All of which has resulted in the exhaustion of the Ortega-Murillo regime in terms of the international community
What is horrifying about what has happened in Nicaragua in the last 10 months is that all the red lines that we could imagine that existed have been crossed, be that out of an absence of principles, or political calculation or logic of dictatorial power.
What is horrifying about what is happening is that there are no longer any limits; the police and the para-police armed groups who are operating have no limits, and that is part of the strategy of terror that is trying to paralyze society.
The intent of the persecution, repression and torture has the purpose of breaking the resistance of the self convoked, with the supreme purpose of keeping power for power´s sake. The government uses also detention and criminalization as a form of repression of social protest.
The judicial branch indeed is acting in the political persecution of the self convoked, and passively in the protection of the Rule of Law and democracy. The judicial system is an important element of the dictatorship while providing complicit coverage for the repression.
The Ortega-Murillo regime represents a “new type of fascism” which is expressed in a poisonous and cynical way, like a dark tide, fed by the policy of the regime.
The problem is that the social and political rebellion of April weakened the backbone of the governance of the authoritarian regime, without generating a new form of power, and between it and the self convened citizens. The denouncement of Solís shows that the Ortega-Murillo regime is remaining within the logic of power or death.
Ms. Murillo is calling on sorcerers disguised as international evangelical pastors to come to pray in certain sites. No magical formula, no incantation of the sorcerers, no enchanter at the service of the dictatorship will be able to stop the unrelenting march of the collapse of the Ortega-Murillo regime.
An earlier version of this document was published in September. With minor changes it was inserted in the version of La Prensa on January 14, 2019. This translation includes the minor changes.
We are Building Nicaragua
“We are Building Nicaragua” Program
This document is the draft of the Program of the Social and Political Movement called “WE ARE BUILDING NICARAGUA” which we submit to the consideration of the readers to open a public discussion among all social sectors on the urgent tasks that we need to promote for a real democratization of Nicaragua.
PROGRAM FOR THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF NICARAGUA: GIVE BACK TO THE PEOPLE THE RIGHT TO DECIDE!
The days of struggle, started in April 2018, are forging and consolidating a strong sense of collective national identity in favor of democratization and justice, as had not occurred in our nearly two centuries of independent history around fundamental symbols and values: the blue and white flag, inextricably linked to republican democracy, public liberties, citizen participation in the State affairs, a strong sense of social equity and true solidarity.
The democratic struggle started by the youth opened the possibility of rebuilding and re-founding our nation on the bases of democracy, justice and social equity. The enjoyment and exercise of public liberties, as well as absolute respect for citizen rights, should not depend ever again on the will or discretion of any government. We all the sectors of the people (youth, students, women, workers, peasants, indigenous, etc) need to recover our popular sovereignty to re-found a new Nicaragua, creating a Social and Democratic Rule of Law on new bases, that imply eradicating forever the use of violence, repression or intimidation by those in power for the purpose of remaining in it, or limiting and blocking the exercise of these freedoms and rights.
The fundamental decisions of Nicaragua should not be made by small oligarchies, but by the broad majorities of men and women through democratic and deliberative processes with all the information on the table, where the broadest sectors can participate.
So that our society might move from the discretional and arbitrary and personalized use of power, to a social interaction more and more regulated by laws, norms and policies that are implemented in a more impartial, transparent and impersonal way possible, that is, with the absence of discrimination and punishment for some, and privileges and “awards” for others.
Currently State institutions have lost their public character by being completely subordinated to partisan control and the discretional management of the rulers. It is urgent to begin the transition toward the new Nicaragua, where national public institutions exist that fulfill their function of providing public goods and services, and that are capable of ensuring confidence, security and certainty to economic agents and all the citizenry.
Nicaragua needs a radical democratic revolution that would build national public institutions that can keep themselves relatively isolated from the pressures of economic groups and those in power, be focused on effective, professional performance and their objectives and responsibilities, establishing mechanisms that would ensure transparency and accountability, and that would make citizen control possible over the institutions that administer power.
Within the framework of this context, we a group of youth, men and women from all social strata, have agreed to launch a new political organization called “WE ARE BUILDING NICARAGUA”, an inclusive, horizontal, democratic and progressive political movement for the purpose of promoting structural changes for the sustainable development of Nicaragua.
WE ARE BUILDING NICARAGUA is a social and political movement where all us Nicaraguans find the opportunity to voice our opinions and participate to achieve our political, economic, social, cultural and environmental aspirations.
The mission of WE ARE BUILDING NICARAGUA is to provide each Nicaraguan the opportunity to promote and defend their rights to achieve a full, just and prosperous life.
We present, then, our proposal for a political program that we submit to the consideration of the citizens for their study, critique and improvement, because only united will we be able to accomplish the immense task of democratizing Nicaragua for the benefit of the great majorities.
16 BASIC POINTS FOR FOUNDING THE NEW NICARAGUA
Free and Sovereign Constituent National Assembly
We men and women of WE ARE BUILDING NICARAGUA, many of us had not even been born during the time of the revolution, we think that the first thing that we should do is dismantle the status quo of the political power that was established in the last period, and that has roots in the institutions created during the process of the death of the revolution of 1979.
It requires returning sovereignty and decision making capacity to the people, in other words, the citizens. This elemental principle of democracy has been systematically denied in the history of Nicaragua. It requires profoundly reorganizing the State institutions. And this can only be achieved by repealing the Constitution of 1987 and its reforms, discussing and approving a new democratic Constitution, that would minimally bring together the issues that we discuss in what follows and that would bring the Nicaraguan State into the modernity of the XXI Century.
For the will of the majority of the people to be reflected, the call for a free and sovereign National Constitutive Assembly should be preceded by a profound revolution of the electoral system, which would ensure the democratic participation of the people and eradicate the possibility of new electoral fraud.
A new electoral system
A complete reform of the electoral system is needed, approving a new Electoral Law that would do away with the bipartisan system inherited from Somocism, and that served as a cover for installing a new dynastic dictatorship. A new Party and Political Association Law should be approved, which also should have constitutional standing, that would allow for the creation of groups, associations and political parties at the municipal, provincial, regional and national levels.
The obstacles created by the constitutional reform of 2000 should be ended, that demand a minimum of 4% for a party to maintain their legal status, because it limits the right to representation of minorities. The myth of the dictatorships, that only the traditional parties should exist, should be done away with,. Democracy rests on the principle of diversity and the respect and protection of minorities.
But, above all, the monopoly of the political parties should be ended, which are the only ones who can propose candidates. A new emphasis should be placed on the fact that citizens can run as candidates regardless of whether they are party members, in any type of election, including presidential elections, prioritizing the fact that youth, who have traditionally been marginated from political activity, can have a dominant role in the destiny of the country.
The election of deputies should be by provinces or districts, doing away with the election of national deputies. The right to proportional representation of minorities should be ensured, especially of indigenous, in every type of election.
The functions exercised by the Supreme Electoral Council (SEC) should be decentralized in different institutions (identity cards, parties and associations, organization of electoral processes, etc), completely reorganized, not just with the participation of the political parties, but civil society organizations, who should play a role of oversight and control.
The new electoral system should include the partial or total renovation of the deputies of the National Assembly halfway through each presidential period. The dates for legislative elections should coincide with municipal and regional elections which should be held every two years, so that the elected officials might know that their posts will always depend on the assessment of their performance and the will of the electors.
To be a candidate for popular election they should be qualified and honest. In addition the 50/50 Law should be kept and respected that ensures the presence of women on electoral ballots which opens the doors for their participation in political decision making posts.
Finally the new electoral system should ensure the right to vote of the citizenry who, for economic or political reprisal reasons, went into exile and live outside the country.
Limits to re-election for popularly elected officials
Re-election is not a problem of principles in democracy, everything depends on the political culture and the electoral system, whether it is sufficiently democratic to respect the popular will.
Nevertheless, this is a key discussion in Nicaragua, because the emergence of the dictatorships of José Santos Zelaya (1896-1909), Anastasio Somoza and his successors (1937-1979), as well as the new dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo (2007-2018) have been related to presidential re-election.
For this reason, and taking into consideration that a good government is not improvised, presidential re-election should only be permitted for a second period, so the new election becomes a plebiscite on the first mandate. Starting with the second period, there should be an absolute prohibition of presidential re-election, establishing iron clad clauses in the new Constitution that would prevent a third presidential period.
Likewise the deputies should only be elected for two consecutive periods. This same norm should be applied to mayors and council members and the members of regional governments.
System for direct election and renovation of magistrates and of other high officials, under citizen control.
The citizens should be given back the capacity to elect and remove magistrates, as well as other high officials from other branches and institutions of the State. That vicious cycle should be ended where the executive branch proposes candidates for magistrates who end up being approved through agreements and negotiations among the deputies, who generally obey the interests of party leaders, who include them on the electoral lists, annulling the capacity of the citizens who elected them.
On establishing a percentage of votes of deputies to choose the magistrates, the problem is resolved through transactions or political pacts, turning the deputies into the principal electors, annulling the popular will. This type of indirect election makes possible the creation of political rings and castes, which are the negation of democracy.
It should be established that the holders of the executive branch, deputies, mayors, councilpersons, members of the regional governments, all popularly elected officials, are subject to the evaluation of the people through a recall referendum. In this way any popularly elected official, having finished a third of their mandate, and in the face of a petition for their removal signed by a certain number of citizens, those signers should have the capacity to call for elections in that specific case, so that it be the electors who decide if the official continues or not in their post.
Restructuring of the judicial branch
Democracy is, in the last instance, the governance of judges. These officials are the ones who decide on the freedom of people, the future of their assets and settle political conflicts. The one who controls the judicial power, controls the State and political power. That is why a profound reform and restructuring of the judicial system should be done. The magistrates, judges should be directly elected by the people, and submitted every two years, when intermediate elections are held, to the control of the citizenry.
The judicial profession should be submitted to periodic controls. Only the people through their vote can decide whether a judge continues in their post for one more period. The re-election of judges and magistrates should have a limit, no more than three periods, to open the way for the formation of new judges and magistrates.
A commission composed of recognized jurists and national and foreign academics should examine and review the curriculums of the aspirants, and they will be the candidates who would be subject to popular balloting. Political parties cannot campaign in favor of the candidates under pain of disqualification.
The Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) should decentralize their functions, so that the administrative functions are not mixed with jurisdictional ones, and with those of control and sanctioning. Deputies cannot be candidates for judges or magistrates. It is a matter of building a new judicial branch that would supervise jointly with the citizenry the functioning of public administration and democracy.
Amparo [constitutional or administrative protection order] should not be an appeal but a judgement, as happens in Latin America. A Constitutional Tribunal should be created, whose magistrates will not obey political parties, but the mandate of the citizenry.
Ongoing fight against corruption
In Nicaragua corruption is an evil embedded in all the State institutions, and it has become part of the political culture: popularly elected posts and public service have been turned into ladders for illicit enrichment. That is why the fight against corruption should be ongoing and at every level. Corruption is one of the principal causes of the increase in poverty and social inequality. It is not possible to fight poverty without fighting corruption at the same time. Indeed corruption erodes and weakens democratic institutions, annulling existing legality, promoting impunity and social chaos.
The existing laws for fighting corruption are not applied because the State institutions responsible for fighting it, like the Comptroller General of the Republic (CGR), the Attorney General of the Republic and the different tribunals of justice have been victims of the concentration of power phenomenon, which centralizes the mechanisms for the election of magistrates and other high officials solely on the deputies of the National Assembly, who are elected through the lists of the political parties who exercise a monopoly on popular representation.
The anti-corruption legislation should be modernized, administrative processes should be greatly simplified, a new law of State Purchasing and one for Conflict of Interest of Public Officials should be approved, establishing online bidding, so that everyone can see what is happening with prices and technical specifications, taking into consideration citizen participation at all levels, developing to the maximum electronic governance.
Transparency should become a new fundamental right, a key factor for strengthening social confidence and a sense of participation and co-responsibility in the construction of a shared destiny. Public information should never be managed as if it were private. The people have the right to know all the affairs, no matter how complicated they may seem. The officials who violate this principle of access to public information will be submitted to severe penal sanctions.
Likewise, the obligation should be established of all officials to be accountable to the general assembly of workers of the public sector with the participation of the citizenry every three months for spending, investments or purchases made. The result of these reports should be placed on the web page of the respective institutions.
In all State institutions an assembly of public servants should be organized to create citizen control commissions responsible for overseeing the implementation of the budget, plans for purchasing and bidding, with the legal faculties to file the corresponding charges. Those who make any denouncements will not be able to be fired nor will there be any administrative reprisals against them, unless it is shown that they had no basis.
The new constitution should establish the new principle that there is no immunity for crimes related to corruption. All assets obtained through acts of corruption or money laundering are imprescriptible, it is the obligation of the State to pursue them until they are recovered, trying and punishing those who are guilty. The officials punished for acts of corruption through a final judgement will be disbarred for life from running for public posts or providing public service, as well as prohibited from being a supplier of the State or contracting with Public Administration.
Professionalization and dignity of public service
A radical democratization is required so that workers in public administration never again are hired or fired based on their party affiliation or loyalty, but rather on the basis of their capacities and competency, and so that the career of civil service be respected.
The Civil Service Law should be governed by the principle of the merits and capacities of the applicants, we should eradicate the culture of sharing posts by pacts and political arrangements or by electoral quotas. Likewise they should promote reforms so that the youth can make a career in public service in a decent way and with facilities for access.
A fair tax system
The taxes of all Nicaraguans should not be used or diverted to enrich small groups, but should form part of the sacred national patrimony. Tax collection should be based on transparency, social control and the principle that the payment of taxes should be proportional to income. In this way society will have the resources needed to cover social spending and ensure the minimum functioning of democracy and the construction of a medium and long term national development plan that is able to transcend changes in government.
Incorporating new rights in the Constitution
Respect for human rights in Nicaragua will never be limited by any government, placing arguments of “national sovereignty” above the relevancy of international treaties on this matter.
New fundamental rights should be incorporated and applied, like Gender Equity, and other specific rights of women, that should be implemented in all the State institutions and at all levels of social life.
Likewise, basic income should be established in a progressive manner for people who are living in levels of poverty. It is the only way of ending the political patronage that does so much damage to democracy, and so that the State might protect in this way those most in need.
Nicaragua should be proclaimed as a Social and Democratic Rule of Law State, governed by fundamental rights, by the principle of absolute respect and equality under the law, the control of the citizenry in the affairs of the State, and the defense of the environment.
The right to rebellion or insurrection against dictatorial or dynastic governments should be recovered, as a fundamental essential right of Nicaraguans.
Likewise, new procedural guarantees should be reformed or incorporated: the function of the Police should be to investigate crimes and send the accused to the judicial authorities in a term no longer than 24 hours. In their investigations the Police should be subordinated to the Prosecutor´s office, who should be responsible for directing the investigations and the gathering of proof. Detentions can only be done through a judicial order or when catching a crime in progress.
Jury trials should be re-established for all cases, and exceptional jurisdictions should be ended.
In addition, Nicaragua should bring itself into the XXI Century and promote the access of all children and adolescents to information technologies and the internet.
Reorganization of the Army and the Police
The role that the National Police have performed in the current civic insurrection, as a small, very centralized repressive army, forces us to re-examine the role of the police forces. The Police should play a very important role in ensuring citizen security, in a context of the advance of the drug trafficking cartels and organized crime in Central America.
To keep the National Police from being a small, mercenary army at the unconditional service of a dictatorial government, their operation should be decentralized, creating municipal police who will maintain a national coordination or command, but whose members will be recruited from within the community, who will be subject to the local authorities. The naming of the Chief of Police in each municipality, as well as their term in the post, will be done through direct election of the citizens. The monopoly of the control of the president of the republic over the National Police must end, it should be shared with the local authorities.
The National Police should have a Community Policing approach, composed of people from the community on a rotating manner, with a reduced administrative apparatus and permanent officials. More women should be incorporated into the chain of command of this Community Police.
Likewise, the role and conception of the National Army should be re-evaluated. The collective trauma that the implementation of military service had during the civil war (1982-1990) has made it possible, contradictorily, for the evolution of the National Army as an institution ever more separated from the people.
In times of peace, the Army should have a very reduced apparatus, it should be composed of citizens who provide their civil service regularly within the armed forces at certain times. Likewise, more women should be incorporated into the chain of command of the Army.
It should not only defend the national sovereignty against drug trafficking and organized crime, but also exercise a social function in the most vulnerable social sectors, protecting and defending the environment, enabling youth to join as their first job and acquire technical training. This is the only way to prevent having an Army of full time paid soldiers unconnected to the people. The Army should not have, nor its officers, businesses or companies to finance retirement systems different from those that most of the population have, or caste privileges that promote social inequality.
Due to the importance of this issue, a special plebiscite should be promoted on the reorganization of the National Army and the National Police, so that the people might democratically decide the path to follow.
Educational revolution, academic freedom, and university autonomy.
Nicaragua will never come out of poverty without being able to raise the educational level of its population.
Nicaragua is losing the only opportunity from the “demographic dividend” as dozens of thousands of youth do not have the opportunity to study and work. The dichotomy between primary education and higher education is false. Both are complementary. That is why academic freedom and university autonomy should be insisted on for training the technical staff and the professionals that the country requires.
Primary and secondary education should include a class on civic education, so that the students might learn from an early age how the State functions and what the principles of democracy are.
Within the framework of basic income, it should be ensured that all children finish their primary and secondary schooling. For that purpose 15% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) should be used for public education. State resources should be used to develop public education, and the businesses of private schools and universities should never be subsidized. The universities should never be submitted to political power and party control.
The teaching profession and scientific research should be encouraged and protected by the State.
Social innovation and entrepreneurship should be encouraged by the State to expand the labor prospects of the recently graduated youth from the Universities so that they can be inserted into the work world. Likewise, the Youth First Job Law should be approved where the universities and companies will coordinate to provide facilities of access to work to recently graduated youth, and so that the relationship between professional majors and market demand might be improved.
The role of the State in the economy
The principal of the social function of property should be rigorously ensured. The State must protect and promote small and medium ,urban and rural producers.
Given the backwardness of the productive forces in Nicaragua, the State should play the role of promoting economic development, the only way of doing away with migration and poverty. Within a social market economy framework, the principal public services (water, health care, education, energy and communications) should be in the hands of the State. The acceptance of mixed enterprises in these areas, and the percentages of private, national or foreign participation, will depend on the needs of each concrete case.
A State bank should exist that would promote financing, at fair interest rates, to the benefit of the peasantry, artisans and small urban and rural producers. To prevent political patronage and corruption that can lead to their bankruptcy, the workers and clients of the state bank should be allowed to form a verification and control commission of the loans, focused on citizen participation.
The profits of the private banks should be regulated, through a policy of fair interest rates, that do not exploit the population.
National or foreign private investment should respect the universal labor rights and gains of the workers. The State should protect with special care worker-owner relationships.
Agrarian reform and the defense of the environment
The agrarian reform that was promoted under the revolution in the 1979-1990 period was reversed in later decades. A process of land concentration functioned and now we have the existence of new large landowners. This process was possible because the peasantry did not have financial and technical assistance that would allow it to develop agriculture or ranching. Not only should the right of the peasantry to land be ensured, but also the right of peasant women to be owners of land. Likewise, a state bank is needed whose principal function would be to develop the peasant economy. The State should ensure a policy of fair prices for peasant products.
The agricultural production of Nicaragua in large measure rests on small and medium producers. It is necessary that these sectors grow through increase in yields and productivity, more than by the expansion of the agricultural frontier, which has degraded hydrological basins, produced sedimentation and the disappearance of water sources, and destroyed biodiversity.
Protected areas should be expanded, like Bosawás and Indio Maíz, and other new ones created. Protecting the national capital of the country should be a priority – water, soils, forests and biodiversity – the State should ensure that they be used in a sustainable manner.
The agrarian reform should have an ecological approach, one of defense of the land, forests, water and the environment. Zones apt for agriculture should be defined, planting should not be done on hills or inclines, what lands are apt for ranching should be pinpointed. Extensive ranching should be eliminated, promoting the creation of modern farms with breeds of cattle that allow production to increase without the need to destroy forests. Peasant or indigenous communities should be the protectors of the forests. A process of reforestation should be promoted and the protection of natural reserves for the purpose of caring for the water of rivers and lakes.
For true autonomy in the Caribbean Coast
Raising the autonomy of the Caribbean Coast to constitutional status in 1995 implied great progress, but the real effects of the Autonomy Statute of the Regions of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua are more formal than real. The principal decisions on the economic resources of the Caribbean Coast, and investment in them, in reality are not up to the Regional Councils, nor the indigenous communities, but the central government, which continues limiting the right to autonomy of the native population.
Not only should the customs, language and culture be preserved, but also the communal forms of organization of the indigenous population, which should administer and protect the natural resources.
Even though it is true that as a result of the struggle of the indigenous communities progress has been made in the titling of communal lands, as long as there is no resettlement of non indigenous on their land, the autonomy of the Caribbean Coast will be a fiction.
Consolidation of municipal autonomy
Municipal autonomy has been enshrined in the Constitution since 1987, but in reality the municipalities are subordinated to the central government, in spite of the existence of the Municipal Law. The role of the State in society should be realized through the municipalities. The national budget should be invested in the municipalities. The role of the central government should be reduced, and the functions decentralized in the municipalities. The structure of the State should rest on the municipalities, who should control education, the supply of potable water, public services, services of police, sewage and the defense of the environment.
The democratization of Nicaragua passes through transferring more national power and resources to the municipal governments.
Reconstructing the Central American nation
In the XXI century the countries of Central America are intimately linked by their economic bases, but not on the level of state superstructure. What happens in some of the countries of Central America has repercussions on the rest. SICA [Spanish acronym for the Central American Integration System] has played a great role as a project for the reunification of the national economies, but it has not achieved the goal. The establishment of PARLACEN was a great step forward on the political plane, but it has very limited functions. We should make more progress. The deputies to PARLACEN should be the same deputies of the national legislative organs, so that there is no separation and ignorance about the regional reality.
We should proceed until achieving the call for a Central American Constituent Assembly that would allow for the creation of a Central American federation or confederacy.
The UCA in these days received the news that the budget subsidy that they have received by constitutional mandate – like all universities that belong to the National University Council (CNU)- was drastically cut by 26.74% this year, when the rest of the universities received cuts of between 0.03 to 1.48%. La Prensa interviewed the President of the UCA, who is also part of the National Dialogue, about this incident and the current situation.
One of the most painful chapters of the recent history of Nicaragua was etched with blood and bullets on the principal entry gate of the Central American University (UCA). Stones, broken glass, bullet holes and the impressive padlock that exist there brings to mind the thousands of people fleeing the attack of the Sandinista mobs, who on not being able to reach their prey, discharged their fury against the university that sheltered them.
Since April 18, 2018 the attacks on the UCA have been constant, their students have been jailed or forced into exile, the president is under death threats, the Orteguista Police (OP) stalks those who arrive at the alma mater, and now the National University Council is trying to take away the state subsidy that is due them by law.
The president of the UCA, José Alberto Idiáquez, a Jesuit priest, is convinced that the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega intends to punish the UCA by taking away their state subsidy for promoting critical thinking among the students, because in authoritarian regimes “a thinking person becomes dangerous”, because for them “ignorance is strength”.
How is the reduction of the state subsidy going to impact the university?
All the universities have (a budget reduction) of between 0.23 to 1.4%, and we -26%, that with the devaluation (of the cordoba) we get to 30%, this affects more than two thousand scholarship students that are already in the UCA, and also the new students because on having to fulfill our commitment to those who have to graduate, we cannot with this large a disruption provide scholarships to the new students who have requested them.
Why does the UCA need the 6%?
Last year we had around eight thousand students, and of those, five thousand receive scholarships, but those scholarships are not given for political reasons in this university, they are given for academic reasons. Young people who have good grades, no matter what their color may be, evangelical, Catholic, atheist, from any political party, if they are a good student and keep their grades up, have their scholarship, here there is no political patronage, we have a scholarship commission where the president is the director.
What are you going to do for this academic year?
We are discussing the possibilities, because we also cannot put the young people at risk. This country is a country of uncertainty, and we are experiencing this 24 hours every day, so we have to make that decision as we get closer to it, we cannot put the youth at risk if there is a situation of insecurity, because the parents are not going to send their children either in this context, where in every university you have three or four patrol cars, anti-riot police, I think that is not very helpful.
The new president of the CNU is the president of the UNAN-Managua, Ramona Rodríguez. How is the relationship with the new administration of the CNU?
I do not have any personal situation, even in the Dialogue we would greet one another, I think that this is not a matter of personalizing it, nor do I have anything against the new president of the CNU…we are respectful, but what we will not allow are unjust attitudes, and we cannot allow that students continue to be detained, we have to denounce that, we have ex students of the UCA who are jailed, (Edwin) Carcache is one of those who continues in jail. The people politically abducted cannot continue there, because it is a great injustice and the UCA is committed to the students.
Could it be said that the UCA is paying for defending the students?
I think that there are several factors: a university where people think becomes dangerous, a thinking person becomes dangerous, because (George) Orwell in his famous novel 1984 said that “ignorance is strength”, so in this university people are taught to think, to be critical thinkers and to have contact with the reality. You are not going to study in order to obey orders from someone who is telling you to kill another person… In the Society of Jesus and the Jesuit educational institutions we have to be on the side of the victims, the people who are suffering and who are experiencing injustices, like our students who do not have any reason to be hidden.
They are not promoting this critical thinking in other universities?
I could not talk about the other universities, but I can tell you that here in the UCA it is fundamental…even though I should say that it was a lack of respect on the part of the UNEN to make that petition against the UCA, because they know perfectly well that here there are poor students like them, but that think differently. So, punishing one person because they think is a bad sign. I think – as you are saying – that this is a punishment for having critical thought, and it is not just now, since I have been president they have been telling me “be careful about what you say”, and I believe that there are issues that one should not be quiet about, if they are killing students, murdering peasants and taking them prisoner, that the demand of the service of faith and the promotion of justice obliges you to not stay quiet, because if not, we are going to be accomplices.
Daniel Ortega promised the UNEN to evaluate their petition to take the 6% away from the UCA and include the universities of the Caribbean, how are you preparing yourself?
First of all, I am happy that Mr. Ortega thinks about the Caribbean…but not at the cost of taking money away from another university out of punishment, because they do not think the same as he, that it what it seems to me is not right, but I do congratulate him, if he truly is going to support the universities of the Caribbean.
Have you discussed a scenario without the money from the 6%?
Right now we have to discuss, it because this is a step before [that one], it would seem that since we are not well-thought-of, if the economic situation gets worse, it would not surprise me that they would take away the 6%, I do not discard that possibility.
In June 2018 you received death threats, do they continue?
I have received (messages through) Whatsapp where they insult me, since I have precautionary measures (from the IACHR), I report them. I cannot say that Mr. Ortega and the Ms. Murillo are ordering me to be killed, I cannot say that, but it is clear that at some moments when I go out they are following me. I have also received insults from people who tell me that I am a “coup monger”, that I am a “traitor priest”, and other insults that are not worth mentioning, which are typical of those trying to discredit a person.
Are you in fear for your life?
The truth is that I am calm, if it happens it happens, I believe that as a human being even Jesus himself was afraid when he sweated blood and put things in the hands of his Father…My professors were murdered in El Salvador, I know what I am involved in, and I know the consequences that being a Jesuit and being in favor of justice imply.
Have you thought about leaving the country?
No, I have to stay here, I would only leave with the six million inhabitants, even though I no longer know how many of us are here right now. If it is time for me to go to the cemetery, well some day I will have to go there.
In Nicaragua there is a lot of uncertainty. You were part of the National Dialogue, do you see some way out of the crisis?
You are asking me a very difficult question, when you see that all the signs are of non dialogue, and that rather people who think differently are attacked, the truth is at this moment I do not see in Mr. Ortega and Ms. Murillo the willingness to do that. They will have their own reasons, but nor can I be unrealistic, because the signs are not signs of dialogue, rather of harassment, because they have not stopped raiding houses, capturing people unjustly and a situation of fear.
Could external pressure be the solution?
I hope that good sense comes at the right time and that they realize that there is nothing to gain by leaving the country destroyed, continuing to kill people, all of us have hope that there is a reasonable way out. I as a priest always ask God that we find a way out, I know that all these things are pressures for which the people of Nicaragua pay a cost; so he who has food and is assured is fine, but the poor, who are the majority of this country, are the ones who are paying that cost.
Is it possible that there be a solution that would not imply an armed conflict?
I said when we were starting the dialogue that it would be a disaster that this country would go into a civil war, this would be a big mistake. I think that we Nicaraguans have to peacefully endure, because we have to show that it is not weapons, it is not killing people that problems get solved.
Rafael Solís, probably the Magistrate in the Supreme Court the closest to Ortega, resigned and released a public letter to social media the evening of January 10th. Solís was key to the Supreme Court´s decision to declare unconstitutional the amendment passed in 1995 prohibiting any president from being immediately re-elected, or ever having three terms. He also led the mobs who attacked the opposition deputies in the Holiday Inn in 2010 who were meeting to pass a law that would have annulled a decree by Ortega extending public official terms until new ones are elected, a rule that extended Solís´term on the Supreme Court, and that he mentions in his own resignation letter.
PUBLIC LETTER OF RESIGNATION AND DENUNCIATION
January 8, 2019
Comandante Daniel Ortega Saavedra
Compañera Rosario Murillo
Dr. Gustavo Porras
Since this past April 17, 2018 when I went to Mexico to have an operation on my back, and I had to learn in that country about all the events that occurred in our country from April 18th on, until my return on May 12th; since the installation of the National Dialogue on May 16th and the following months where for reasons of health I had to come and go from that country up to today when I am writing you this letter, I have been contemplating the possibility of my resignation.
On three different occasions throughout these nine months I have thought about sending you this letter, but I always had the hesitation that through the National Dialogue whatever its nature might be, and even with more actors and mediators, the Government presided by you would be able to correct the serious errors committed throughout this period. Nevertheless, the year 2018 ended and nothing of this occurred; rather just the opposite: the government hardened its positions to the point of taking us to nearly total international isolation, and I sincerely do not see the least possibility that now in 2019 a true and new national dialogue might be taken up that would achieve peace, justice and reconciliation in our country.
That is why I present my immediate and irrevocable resignation at this moment of my post of Magistrate of the Supreme Court, and all the political posts included in militancy in the FSLN. This resignation is independent of the decision that the National Assembly might take to accept or not the resignation, even though there are still three months left to finish my period, but I prefer to do it now, to keep from having applied to me that article of the Constitution that establishes that public officials elected by the National Assembly should remain in their posts, if the Assembly does not name the other Magistrates, and even after their periods have ended, which is what I believe is going to happen in April.
The reality is that beyond the number of the deaths so deeply felt by myself and by the grief of their mothers and families members, that could be more or less the 325 indicated, and the great majority of whom were from the sector in opposition to the government, and in circumstances where in some cases they could be murdered according to the IACHR and the Interdisciplinary Group of International Experts (GIEI); even beyond the more than 500 prisoners, considered political prisoners by the opposition and the great majority of whom I also consider them to be, I always thought that common sense and sanity would prevail in you, and you would move toward a political negotiation that would allow for early elections and some of the other points proposed by the opposition, but the reality has demonstrated to be just the opposite, and truly a State of Terror with the excessive use of para-police forces or even the Police themselves with weapons of war, you have sown fear in our country and there no longer exists any rights that are respected, with the inevitable consequences of the installation and consolidation of at least a dictatorship with the character of an absolute monarchy of two kings who have made all the Branches of the State disappear, leaving the Judicial Branch itself, to which I belong, reduced to its most minimal expression.
The responsibility for these two Nicaraguas, the one before April 18 that at least had very high economic growth in Alliance with the Private Sector, and in general terms a Rule of Law and respect for the Constitution; and the other Nicaragua after April 18th, by your decision all this was done away with and also produced great frustration in me, in spite of my participation in the FSLN for 43 years, and I considered my resignation within the country or in exile since that time, and if I did not do it before, it is because I always thought that things could change, and that is why I sent you on two different occasions documents about different alternatives to negotiate this situation under different scenarios, and I was never taken into account in these proposals.
You hardened your position to the Catholic Church in a way that in the beginning was infantile, and then later with a lot of hate and rejecting them as mediators again, and accused them of supporting the opposition.
But nor did you seek out, like in the decade of the 80s, international mediators as happened in Esquipulas, but you decided to do put an end to the popular protests, the youth and the barricades by fire and the sword with a disproportionate use of force, and armed with weapons of war in an irresponsible manner a large amount of youth, and some now retired Sandinistas who also participated with the Police in this repression.
In this way you believed that the Country had become normal again; you broke with the Private Sector and then the trials began, the great majority of them political even according to my criteria, a large amount of detainees with a number of absurd accusations for crimes that they never committed, you yourselves replacing by your decisions an entire Judicial Branch, including our own judges who I defend because they had no other alternative than obey the orders coming from El Carmen or the Prosecutor´s Office, otherwise they would be removed from their posts.
The Magistrates of the Appeal Courts, or in our case, the Magistrates of the Penal Chamber of the Supreme Court, can still reverse those decisions, but it is very difficult because of the State of Terror imposed, some of them might dare to do it in the future, and I myself am going to be outside the Judicial Branch and probably outside of Nicaragua for a time, and I therefore do not have the right to demand that of them, which is why these sentences surely are going to be ratified, and I hope that they are not imprisoned for much time (most are sentenced for 30 years).
Now it is war against the communications media, after you illegally suppressed the right of the people to protest in the streets, and there are journalists killed, journalists jailed, above all a large amount of journalists in exile, and the few that remain in Nicaragua little by little are going to be repressed and will have to go into exile or will end up in jail.
Let´s not even talk about the economy, that practically collapsed and it is expected that for this year 2019 the economic chaos will be total and the possibilities for a new Civil War in the Country, that no one wants, are now seen closer than ever.
I do not want a civil war for Nicaragua, but it is clear to me that you are taking that path, and in the face of an Army that for some reason has not disarmed the armed groups, it is also logical to expect that the opposition groups are going to look for how to get armed, and the country is going to go backward 40 years, and go back, if we are not already there, to the cycles of violence so characteristic throughout our history.
The OAS is going to end up expelling Nicaragua sooner or later with Almagro getting the 24 votes, and the United States is going to continue its policy of applying sanctions to the country until suffocating it economically, and meanwhile, the armed path will gain strength, you are doing to hold on to power and you are not going to leave, if it is not by force, but everyone is clear that it is very difficult to get to the elections of 2021.
I already experienced this so many years ago when I fought against a Dictatorship, and I never believed that history was going to repeat itself, through the fault of those who also fought against that same Dictatorship, but now I am very clear that the solution is going in that direction, and I do not want to participate, out of a decision of conscience and principles, beside a government that no longer has reason nor law, nor the majority support of the people and that only supports itself by the use of force to remain in power.
For this reason, and not out of cowardice or treason, I am resigning, because if it had been a matter of a failed coup or external aggression, in those months of 2018, and so many people would not have been killed, I would be with you and would continue in the Court and in the Frente, but there was no coup, nor external aggression, but rather an irrational use of force and you insist on continuing doing things badly to the extent of taking the country to a civil war of which I do not want to be a participant, much less by your side.
I hope a miracle occurs and you reflect, and take up again the path of the National Dialogue and true reconciliation of the Country, but the history of Nicaragua has taught us something different, and in this case history is going to repeat itself, and if you continue sowing the winds you are going to harvest tempests until you arrive at an end that effectively is going to be inevitable.
May God save Nicaragua
Signature: Rafael Solis
Rafael Solís Cerda
Ex-Magistrate of the Supreme Court
Ex- Sandinista Militant [Copy of his citizen identity card]
This end of the year speech by Daniel Ortega takes place in the context of the report issued earlier in the month [December 2018] by the GIEI that accused the government of human rights violations so severe that they categorized them as crimes against humanity. In this speech Daniel Ortega highlights economic and social rights, those human rights spelled out in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the right of everyone, especially the impoverished majorities, to have their basic needs met. While there may be legitimate debate about its effectiveness, this government, for better or for worse, has placed a priority on responding to those basic needs.
While this fact does not legitimize the severe human rights violations contained in the GIEI report, it is a key reason why some people continue to support the government, and refuse to believe the accusations against it. It is also why they are reluctant to support any change to an unknown future government where these economic and social rights would no longer be a priority – which has been the norm in the history of Nicaragua, and humanity in general. These aspects of basic human rights will be important to include in any future process of reconciliation if stability is to be achieved in Nicaragua.
Government of National Unity and Reconciliation
December 31, 2018
With great Affection for all Nicaraguan Families, our best wishes, so that in this year we might have Health, we might continue cultivating Strength, and God might make us more and more resistant and more and more capable of constructing Peace. Thanks, Compañer@s
Words of Daniel
Work, Peace and to get to Work and Peace, Reconciliation. This is the starting point, Reconciliation, and this has been our Flag, this has been our Commitment throughout all the Time, and it was our challenge to achieve Peace. And what it cost to achieve Peace…How much pain! But in the end Peace was achieved.
And then, we entered into the Reconciliation Process. For what reason? To be able to develop the Country, progress in the Country toward Peace, Stability and that would then allow us to fight Poverty, eradicate Extreme Poverty, democratize Health Care, Education, Housing, the Right to Land; in other words, all the Works that later we began to develop in the New Stage, from 2007 to the month of April 2018.
And as we said in the Message, it is a matter of recovering Peace, Stability, which we have been recovering, we have been consolidating; and in 2019 it is the challenge that all of us Nicaraguans have of finish consolidating Stability, Peace, and then that will give us the conditions to take up again the path of Economic, Social Growth, so that the Rights of all Nicaraguans can really be respected.
Because a Nicaraguan in Extreme Poverty is a Nicaraguan who does not have their full Human Rights. A Nicaraguan who does not have a home, is a Nicaraguan who does not have their full Human Rights, be that they rent a home or that it is their own. I am referring to the Nicaraguan who does not have a home to rent, because they have to live alongside the rain gullies, improvising a home, where he and his family are exposed to losing their lives.
And this is what we have been developing during all this time, all these years, regardless of the political differences that have been present there in our situation. Political differences, Economic differences, ideological differences have been present there; but beyond those differences, we have been able to build, we have been able to progress, progress with historic Works like the Highway to San Carlos, Río San Juan.
I remember that This Highway was promised since I was a boy, because I used to travel to Chontales. To travel to Chontales, the Route goes by there, later you turn to San Carlos by Acoyapa, that is where the turn is. And the promise was there, and the promise became a reality, thanks to the effort, to the tenacity of the People accompanied by their Government.
We are a few months away from finishing now this other great Work, another Highway that is going to unite the Pacific with the Autonomous Region of the South Caribbean. And the Route will also be by land. The Route that has been aquatic to El Rama, in El Rama you got on a boat, and from there to Bluefields, the Route that has been aerial, very expensive, now it will be a Route by land, that also assures us, and we are already working in that direction, assures us the conditions to build the Port in Bluefields, a Port that will be able to incorporate merchandise, and will also be able to transfer merchandise for export.
We then will no longer be dependent on the Ports of the Sister Peoples like Honduras and Costa Rica; currently we depend on the Ports of Honduras and Costa Rica. Now having a Port in the Caribbean, well, we will have our own Port, surely some merchandise will always move through Puerto Limón in Costa Rica, others through Puerto Cortés en Honduras; but now we will have our own Port to export Nicaraguan products and to import products from other Regions, and also to import the inputs needed to carry out Economic Activities in our Country.
And the other Works that we have inaugurated in this year 2018: The Fernando Vélez Paiz Hospital which is the most modern hospital that the Health System of Nicaragua currently has, of the entire Health System, Private as well as Public, it is the most modern. For what reason? To serve the People, Nicaraguan Families who cannot pay a Private Hospital. There they have another Hospital, and those that are being built.
And the Highways that have continued to be built in the midst of the difficulties of this year. And the Homes that have continued to be built in the midst of the difficulties of this year. And the Overpass that we recently inaugurated, that was able to be inaugurated in spite fo the difficulties of this year. And the Schools that have been able to be built, and the Health Posts that have able to be built, and the Paved Roads and Streets in the different Communities and Municipalities of our Country, that continue to be built and continue being inaugurated in spite of the difficulties.
In other words, this is a Heroic, Brave People, who in spite of the difficulties knows how to work, how to move ahead, how to open Paths there where obstacles present themselves. And the challenge that we have for 2019: Continue opening Paths, so that in this New Path we advance more quickly, even more rapidly, toward the Goals that we have in order to erradicate Poverty, Extreme Poverty: Health Programs, Housing, Highways, Education, multiplying Education.
The Education Programs have not stopped! This Year End we have seen thousands of Youth graduating, in spite of the difficulties; even graduating in majors that previously were not part of the Curriculum. Graduating in the management of the Braille System, for example, to be able to train Nicaraguan Brothers and Sisters who cannot see, the Blind. These really are Miracles, thanks to God, Miracles that are happening every day.
A People with Energy, with Spirit, in the midst of the pain that they have suffered, is full of Joy, and pushes forward, to Come out Ahead, Small Traders, Medium Traders, Craftspeople, Farmers, Ranchers, all working!
Are the challenges big? It is true the challenges are big, no one can deny it, but Peoples throughout the History of Humanity have shown that even in the face of the biggest catastrophes, the biggest tragedies, Peoples afterward have come back from behind, overcoming the catastrophes.
And there are other Peoples who have been learning to live with catastrophies, I am referring to natural catastrophies. We see those zones in Asia how they are constantly being destroyed by Earthquakes, by Tsunamis, impoverished Peoples, and developed Peoples. Of course, the developed Peoples have more capacities to confront these catastrophies, but in the end the capacities of the Human Being to not be demoralized in the face of difficulties, to not let themselves be beaten by those who try to demoralize People. Because there are always those who try to demoralize People.
Nicaragua itself, how many earthquakes! Two large earthquakes, the last was in December, and Nicaragua has been getting out of catastrophies, Hurricanes…How can we not remember the thousands of deaths of Hurricane Mitch! They were thousands, more than 2,000 Nicaraguan Brothers and Sisters who were victims of Hurricane Mitch,. And all that zone that was affected by Hurricane Mitch where the force of the water was so violent that it changed the course of rivers.
Then, the Bridges that had disappeared were rebuilt, first, provisional Bridges, and later, permanent Bridges. And in all this we are grateful for the Solidarity of Peoples and Brother Governments, who in an unconditional manner, without any type of conditions, have maintained Aid with the Nicaraguan People, knowing that they are offering this Aid for the benefit of Nicaraguan Families.
Brother and Sister Nicaraguans, Nicaraguan families, we are People with a lot of Faith, a lot of Tenacity, a hardworking People, a People who are creative. All these Virtues that the Human Species has, the Nicaraguan People also have, and these Virtues, accompanied by the value of Solidarity, become a Powerhouse in moments like these, of difficult passage, to return or open New Paths, New Routes for Peace, for Stability, and for the Wellbeing of Nicaraguan Families. That is why we do not tire repeating that Nicaraguan wants, the People want, Work! Peace and Reconciliation!
Happy New Year Nicaraguan Families! Happy New Year Brother and Sister Nicaraguans! Happy New Year Nicaraguan Youth!
This interview of María Teresa Blandón was done by an Argentinian feminist organization. María is one of the key feminist leaders in Central America, and for years has taught in the graduate program at the UCA in Managua on gender studies. It provides a larger historical and gender perspective on the crisis in Nicaragua today.
Nicaragua: Feminism as an exercise of autonomy and fight for freedom
December 23, 2018
by Claudia Korol
in Marcha: una Mirada Popular y Feminista de la Argentina y El Mundo
We talked with María Teresa Blandón, teacher, activist of the feminist movement in Nicaragua, Director of La Corriente, who reflects on the political moment of this Central American country and tells us, “We Nicaraguan feminists are going to continue denouncing”
Daughter of a peasant and a teacher, María Teresa Blandón joined the Sandinista Revolution at the age of 17, and then the feminist movement. It is she who tells us about the difficult controversies between the Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN), since it was taken over completely by Orteguism, and the women´s movement, feminism, but also the human rights and youth movements, independent journalists and community media.
This is the first of a series of interviews of well known activists in Nicaragua, who give us a closeup on the dilemmas that they are experiencing in the country that gave us one of the most beautiful revolutions.
What was the process that led to the FSLN distancing itself from the revolution that we fell so in love with in Latin America?
The truth is that it was a very long process. From that revolution of the 80s that stirred up so much emotion, so much hope in Latin America, nothing has been left for some time now. Since the Sandinista Front divided, the more authoritarian part, more warlike, more violent part was left with the political control, and usurped the collective Sandinista memory. That part of Sandinism is very compromised by corruption. The “piñata” of the 90s was the kill shot to a marvelous struggle of Sandinism, but it seems that many people did not realize it. (When the FSLN lost the elections of February 25, 1990, it redistributed among the Sandinista leadership state assets that had been confiscated from sectors in power at the moment of the triumph of the Sandinista revolution. From those processes a “Sandinista bourgeoise” was formed, composed of several of the principle leaders of the FSLN. The plundering of the state assets is known as the “Sandinista piñata”).
In 1998 Zoilamerica denounced Daniel Ortega for sexual abuse. (Zoilamerica is the daughter of Rosario Murillo, current spouse of Daniel Ortega and Vice President of the country. Daniel Ortega adopted Zoilamerica, was accused by the young woman of having suffered sexual abuse and sexual violence by him, who was a Sandinista deputy at that time). When Ortega returned to power after having been denounced for sexual violence, there were still people who thought that he was a revolutionary.
We who were here in Nicaragua, and we feminists in particular, said that that was not so. The nearly twelve years since the return of Daniel Ortega to power have been years of a lot of reversals for women, for society as a whole. For democracy, for women´s rights, for citizen participation, for freedom of expression. It is a government that has built its project on populism, while it provided assistance to poor people, maintained a solid covenant with big private enterprise, to the point of turning this state into a corporate state. It is the reality that we have been experiencing in these years, and that starting in April went into crisis, because there was an accumulation of injuries, restrictions on freedom, persecution, corruption and non-transparent public policies.
What was the conflict with the feminists?
We already had problems since the decade of the 80s. In the 90s the feminist movement completely separated itself from the Sandinista Front, over the previously mentioned issues. In the 90s the movement already had the possibility of flying on its own wings, and we needed more. Issues dear to feminism like machista violence, we were not able to address them from Sandinism. We left the Sandinista Front. The “coup de disgrâce” was when Zoilamerica in 1998 denounced Daniel Ortega for sexual abuse. It was a critical point for Nicaraguan feminism. It led us to deepen the debate on machista violence and its structural causes, but also it confirmed for us that Daniel Ortega had not just been an aggressor, but also an accomplice and an abettor of machista violence. This for us explains why his wife, Rosario Murillo, has had so much bad blood toward the feminists from the 80s up to our times.
The policy of alliances of Daniel Ortega with the most corrupt leaders of Nicaragua, the pact that he signed in 2000 with Arnoldo Alemán, who is the iconic figure for corruption in Nicaragua, ended up confirming for us that the Sandinista Front was a machine without a political project, without a policy for the country, that had become an end in itself to return to power. The alliance with Alemán was what allowed Ortega to come to power. He got control over the electoral branch and made changes in electoral justice that allowed him to come to power with 38% of the votes.
In the 2005 campaign the feminist movement of Nicaragua was unanimously against the candidacy of Daniel Ortega. There were differences over who to support, but we were against him riding into office again in the government. The issue about him being a sexual abuser was not a small issue when we were bringing machista violence into discussion. For us it was a terrible blow that a lot of people were quiet about that. Political leaders were silent, the Catholic Church also silent. Only us Nicaraguan feminists were speaking out.
For these 12 years we received blow after blow. The penalization of therapeutic abortion was the work of the Sandinista Front. The naturalization and coverup of sexual abuse, each year the amount of pregnant young girls, the result of abuse. The issue of having dismantled the institutional path for filing charges, the punishment of aggressors. A total space of impunity: the complete rejection of this government of sexual and reproductive rights. Their alliance with the most inflammatory groups of the Catholic Church, the Evangelical Churches. These are some of examples of the treatment that we feminists and defenders of women´s rights have received.
How has that alliance with the churches been, and how is it now?
Even though during these twelve years Daniel Ortega was able to keep most of the evangelical churches on his side, who have a pretty serious history of corruption and opportunism, and he has coopted part of the Catholic Church, above all in the last 5 years sectors of the Catholic church have begun to have a concern – not on the issue of women´s rights, because they were in agreement on that – but on the closing down of spaces for citizen participation, censorship, non transparency of public policies. It also happened that the Ortega-Murillo government competed with the Church even over the Catholic rituals most dear to the Church. Rosario Murillo turned herself into a pretty strange type of priestist. She was the one who read the Bible every day, she celebrates Christmas, spends millions of cordobas of the National Budget to celebrate the Immaculate Conception of Mary. She took charge of buying off a part of the Catholic Church. Part of the hierarchy took a position in favor of the government. Now the relationship is pretty strained.
In April with the outbreak of the crisis, this relationship was broken, even though from below the Ortega-Murillo couple continues having strategies for cooptation and blackmail. Ortega asked the Episcopal Conference to be the mediator in the dialogue, to gain time and stop the citizen protest that was gaining more and more strength. When that dialogue attempt was made, part of the Catholic Church came out to defend the youth who were in the barricades defending rights, and Ortega responded with arrests and murders, this tense relationship was irremediably broken. So at this moment the Ortega-Murillo government has declared the Catholic hierarchy its enemy, and has launched a stigmatization campaign, threatened the bishops of the Episcopal Conference, ordered priests to be persecuted. The precarious connection that they maintained, out of interests on both sides, was broken.
What information is there about political prisoners?
The total universe of prisoners is enormous. We have more than 500 political prisoners. There are currently nearly 50 women prisoners. The situation is terrible, because they have abducted them, there has been no general [legal] process for apprehending these young people. Police and paramilitaries have participated in the detention. In no case has there been an arrest warrant. A group of around 10 judges, who are faithful servants of the Ortega-Murillo regime, have held completely irregular trials, with false witnesses, bringing in police to testify. They accuse them of absurd things: terrorism, possession of powerful weapons. Completely irrational things.
In the case of the women prisoners there is a notable, profound machista misogyny. There are women who were freed, but others continue in prison. What they have denounced is that they have been sexually abused, that they are forced to strip themselves naked, that they have been groped by police officers. There are at least three cases of women who aborted as a result of the bad treatment and torture that they received. Some are imprisoned in the jail in El Chipote, a place where Somoza used to torture political prisoners. There are women prisoners who have serious infirmities. Their relatives have asked that they be seen by some specialist, and that has not been possible. Some months ago at least 16 female political prisoners who are in the La Esperanza jail were savagely beaten by men who were not part of the staff of that jail, because they resisted them taking Irlanda Jérez to some unknown place, an iconic young leader who put herself in front of the protests in the eastern market [mercado oriental], one of the largest markets in Central America. When they wanted to take her out to be interrogated by those men who were not from the prison, the other prisoners defended her. All of them were injured, and the authorities have not allowed doctors to see them after that beating. They have told, in the few moments when they saw their families, that they spy on them, denigrate them, treat them badly, do not allow them their medications many times, they do not allow them the time needed to speak with their families, they do not give them the time established to go out into the yard to get some sun. They have not allowed the female nor the male prisoners effective defense. They have wanted to impose court appointed lawyers on them, that we already know are lawyers chosen by Ortega-Murillo. They have harassed and boycotted the lawyers of the human rights organizations who provide legal advice to the prisoners.
This last week has produced the closure of NGOs that defends human rights, feminists, environmentalists, and independent media [Dec 13-17, 2018]. The reality is that the repression has never ended. After dismantling the barricades and the road blocks at gunpoint, which left us a toll of deaths that we still have not finished counting exactly, came another form of repression that was to prevent at any cost that we Nicaraguans would take to the streets.
What are the figures on the dead that you have since the campaigns of April?
The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights talks about 325 people murdered since April – which coincides with the data that the IACHR has provided. Another figure is from the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (APRODH), that has around 500 murdered and an imprecise figure for the disappeared. The IACHR has had a lot of difficulties in doing its job of investigation. The MESENI (Special Mechanism for Follow up for Nicaragua) also has not had much opportunities. The government had systematically denied providing complete information on those murdered. As long as this regime continues in power we are not going to be able to know the truth. That will happen after they have left.
What were the other forms of repression?
Since we had been having an avalanche of popular demonstrations throughout the country, the Ortega-Murillo regime carried out a strategy of persecuting youth, threatening people, putting up signs on the walls calling them: “coup monger, we are coming for you, we are going to fill you with lead and these things”, etc. In addition to this, each time that we went out to demonstrate, they would send out the anti-riot police on us. So much so that in the last two and a half months each time that we have tried to march, the regime militarized the cities, harassed the people, blockaded us and prevented the demonstration. Even in some marches that we did in the month of September, they sent paramilitaries on us to fire in full view of the police. So people quit taking to the streets because the repression was getting worse and worse. This was another way of repressing us. Even when we went to the churches to try to demonstrate, they waited for us on the way out to pursue us and to stop some of us, especially young people, who were always their principal or preferred objective.
The attack on the NGOs is a new moment of the repression. In spite of the fact that it is already very difficult to go out on the streets to protest, we have continued talking, we have continued being in the media. NGOs, especially those who work in the human rights sphere, have been denouncing human rights violations, and in this new stage, the strategy of repression is going against journalists and the few independent media that are left, against human rights organizations, and against non governmental organizations, including also feminist organizations. This is the stage of repression we are in.
On November 28th they summoned Ana Quiros, a Costa Rican feminist who had become Nicaraguan, who has lived in this country for three decades. They summoned her to the Migration office, without providing any explanation, and there they handcuffed her like a criminal and took her to the border with Costa Rica, her country of origin. Then they raided the offices of her organization (CISAS), a Center that has been working on issues of Community Health for three decades. They took away their equipment. They just now took over the place again and said that their assets are now confiscated.
There are communications media who are being permanently surveilled, there are journalists who have been captured, journalists who have been beaten. Radio Darío was burned down, now they raided it again. There are some radios that have had to close. The most recent one is the River Foundation [Fundación del Río], that works on environmental issues. This happened last weekend. Not only did they cancel the legal status of eight non government organizations, including CENIDH, but without any legal procedure raided their offices and declared that the assets would be confiscated by the State. In addition to this, they raided a communications enterprise that has nothing to do with the NGOs. It is a commercial enterprise, that is called Confidencial, and produces two television programs, owned by Carlos Fernando Chamorro, son of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, who was murdered by the Somocista dictatorship. They went into this office, raided it, stole everything that was there. When the team of Confidencial went to the police to tell them to explain why they did this to a private enterprise that has nothing to do with the law of non-profit, civil associations, what the police did was to repress, beat, threaten and insult the journalists.
In the case of CENIDH (Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights) which is a very iconic organization in this country, which has accompanied the struggles of women, youth, peasants, the police broke into their office like criminals, destroyed everything, and when Vilma Nuñez, the Director of CENIDH, and the rest of the team tried to enter their offices, the police prevented them. At the height of cruelty, they even prevented the Director from making statements to independent media. As Paulo Abrao from the IACHR said, we are living in a state of exception, that has trampled on all citizen rights. The right to free expression, freedom of movement, civic protest, freedom of organization. It is a state of exception, which has not been legally declared but that has been implemented de facto.
Do you want to say anything more?
One thing that I want to say is that we Nicaraguan feminists from the first moment that this crisis exploded have counted on the support and backing of Latin American feminists, and also feminists from the state of Spain. They have given us a ton of support. We profoundly recognize the level of commitment that they have shown during this entire time. Without them, for example, the Caravan for Solidarity that has toured all of Latin America and a good part of Europe would not have been possible. This enormous effort we owe to them.
On the other hand, I would like to tell you that we Nicaraguan feminists are going to continue denouncing, we are going to continue fighting, we are going to continue defending our freedom, and also that of the entire Nicaraguan society. In this road that lies ahead of us, which we trust will be shorter, we hope to continue counting on the social movements of Latin American and the Caribbean, and continue trusting that men, women journalists, committed to just causes, can continue exposing this terrible situation that Nicaragua is experiencing in these times.
This is a very important document which presents the Nicaraguan government´s logic for the expulsion of the GIEI and MESENI of the IACHR. It reiterates a number of points made in other pronouncements. The heart of the government´s position is that it does not recognize any legitimate peaceful protestors, rather all described as part of a coup attempt that the Nicaraguan government claims echoes long held US policy toward Nicaragua. For that reason, it considers accounts of the crisis from unofficial sources not credible, especially family members of detainees. Statements the Secretary General of the OAS has made in other forums are used to discredit all the work of the GIEI and MESENI in Nicaragua. This statement and their expulsion happened one day before the GIEI issued their report– which was planned to be released in Managua – which accuses the government of crimes against humanity.
Ministry of Foreign Relations
Managua, December 19, 2018
Mr. Secretary General:
I refer to the acts of violence occurred, beginning on April 18, which constituted a coup attempt that affected the peace, security and stability of the Nicaraguan people.
In the framework of such acts the Government of National Reconciliation and Unity called for a National Dialogue, inviting the Episcopal Conference as mediator and witness, for the purpose of making progress in the search for solutions that would allow the return of tranquility for Nicaraguans.
In this context, the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights was invited to carry out a working visit to observe the human rights situation in Nicaragua, a matter which was communicated on May 13, 2018 to Mr. Paulo Abrao, the Executive Secretary, and to you.
Likewise, in follow up to the recommendations of the IACHR, we agreed upon the creation of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) to collaborate and support the investigative actions carried out by the State of Nicaragua concerning the acts of violence that occurred in the period from April 18 to May 30, 2018.
Likewise, in follow up to the agreements of the National Dialogue, our Government extended an invitation to the Secretary General of the OAS to provide accompaniment to the Verification and Security Commission of the IACHR for the installation of the Mechanism for Follow Up to their recommendations (MESENI).
The Interamerican Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in response to the invitation of our Government, arrived in Nicaragua on May 17, 2018, for the purpose of observing “in loco” the Human Rights situation in our country.
In the period of the visit from May 17-21, 2018, the IACHR held bilateral meetings with the National Police, Public Ministry, Supreme Court, Ministry of Health, Nicaraguan Army and Ministry of Foreign Relations. In these meetings our institutions reported widely and documented for the IACHR the events occurred that had left citizens and police murdered and injured, and many material damages to public and private property, as a consequence of the acts of vandalism and armed attacks on the part of the coup terrorists.
Likewise, facilitation was provided the IACHR to carry out visits to the National Penitentiary System, the Judicial Support Office of the National Police, and the Institute for Legal Medicine, where they were able to confirm that the information from some communications media on illegal detentions, torture and disappearances was unfounded.
In this context on May 19, 2018 the “Jorge Navarro” National Penitentiary System received the visit of the IACHR; Joel Hernández García, Commissioner of the IACHR, Soledad García Muñoz, spokesperson, Andrés Pizarro, Lawyer of the IACHR and Federico Blanco, Press Officer, who did a tour through the installations of the penitentiary system and verified that there were no people detained related to the coup attempt.
In spite of the multiple evidence on the violent nature of the supposed peaceful protests, the existence of police and citizens killed with high calibre firearms, the IACHR characterized said protests as peaceful, describing them in this way in their preliminary report.
In spite of the lack of impartiality and objectivity and the bias reflected in the preliminary report, our Government, acting in good faith and following up on the agreements from the National Dialogue, sent a communication on June 20 to the Executive Secretary of the IACHR, Paulo Abrao, within the framework of the Follow Up Mechanism (MESENI), so that he might provide accompaniment and assistance to the Verification and Security Commission created in the National Dialogue.
The first team from MESENI/IACHR arrived in our country on June 24, 2018 remaining until today in Nicaragua. During this period the Government of Nicaragua has provided access and security to the IACHR/MESENI officials, likewise it has offered abundant information on each one of the violent events, abductions, and murders that the coup supporters have been carrying out against the members of the National Police and the population in general.
In this context, on Monday July 2, 2018 the Office for Judicial Support of the National Police held a meeting with the delegation of MESENI/IACHR, led by the Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, providing a tour of the installations, access to interviews with those arrested, and with officers of the legal office and area for the control of prisoners and review of files.
For the sake of promoting the conditions for dialogue and understanding, in spite of the serious alterations of public order, property damage, obstruction of public services, the police authorities agreed to the requests of the Episcopal Conference releasing people detained for the commission of these crimes. We cite by way of example:
June 30, 2018, 10 prisoners were turned over, signing as a witness María Claudia Pulido from the IACHR.
July 2 , 2018, at the request of Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, Jonatán de Jesús Aguinaga Gonzales was freed, arrested for illegal possession of a firearm.
July 4, 2018 three prisoners were turned over, Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, Pablo Abrau and Fernanda dos Anjos signed as witnesses for the IACHR.
July 7, 2018, eight prisoners were turned over, Marlene Alejos, the representative of the OHCHR and Pablo Abrau, from the IACHR signed as witnesses.
July 16, 2018 the National Penitentiary System received a second visit from IACHR/MESENI, represented by Roberto Luis Bravo Figueroa, Legal adviser of the IACHR and Alexandro Rodolfo Álvarez Alarcón, Legal Adviser of the IACHR.
On that occasion delegates of IACHR/MESENI requested interviews of 8 detainees. The authorities of the Penitentiary System informed the delegation of the IACHR that 3 were in prison, whose names where Julio José Ampié Machado, Jaime Ramón Ampié Toledo, Reinaldo Antonio Lira Ruques, William Efrain Picado Duartes and Guillermo Alberto Sobalbarro Oporta.
The authorities of the Penitentiary System facilitated a tour of the wing where 48 detainees are located related to the crimes committed within the context of the coup attempt, so that they might observe the conditions of their confinement.
On another matter, on May 30, 2018 the State of Nicaragua, showing its vocation for peace and ensuring access to justice through the clarification of the criminal deeds occurred during the coup attempt, signed the “Agreement between the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, the Interamerican Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) and the Government of Nicaragua to support the investigation of the acts of violence occurred in the period from April 18 to now in Nicaragua.”
In follow up on that agreement, on July 2, 2018 the Attorney General of the Republic, the Inspector General of the National Police, the President and Vice President of the Supreme Court, the Minister of Health, the Ombudsperson for the Defense of Human Rights, the Prosecutor General of the Republic, the Director of the Medical Institute, the Minister of Foreign Relations and a representative of the Army of Nicaragua, received the members of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI). In that meeting the mechanism for communication and coordination for the exchange of information was addressed.
Based on paragraph 9 of the signed Agreement, which literally reads: “on the basis of the present Agreement, a Procedural Protocol will be signed once the parties comply with their respective legal facilities and internal procedures”, through a note on July 3, 2018, the Ministry of Foreign Relations sent to the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro and the Executive Secretary of the IACHR, Paulo Abrao, the proposal for the Procedural protocol without having received a response as of today.
The members of the GIEI, outside the Procedural Protocol that was expected to be agreed upon between the State of Nicaragua, the IACHR and the Secretary General of the OAS, proceeded to carry out a series of actions in violation of the terms of the agreement and without having signed the Procedural Protocol, distancing themselves from what was contemplated in number 1.Ac and 1.C of being a group…” to collaborate with and support the investigations that the Nicaraguan authorities are carrying out.”
July 3, 2018, in an interview provided to the communications media, the members of the GIEI confirmed the start of interviews of victims and family members, circumstances and procedures that corroborated in their communique on August 16, where the GIEI expressed having prioritized information gathering from direct interviews with family members. Likewise in interviews granted to communications media they confirmed requests for information to human rights organizations (NGOs).
In this regard, in accordance with Nicaraguan legislation, acts of investigation to clarify criminal deeds are the exclusive competency of the Public Ministry and the National Police, in that sense the procedures of the GIEI violate our Constitution, the Penal Processing Code, and the organic laws of the Public Ministry and the National Police.
The Government of the Republic of Nicaragua has acted in good faith, expecting impartiality and objectivity, maintaining expectations for accurate and real contributions that would support our efforts to restore peace and security to the Nicaraguan people, nevertheless, these processes have been characterized by an interventionist attitude of interference, echoing the policies of the United States Government against Nicaragua.
On the other hand, our Government cannot let pass without mention your irresponsible intervention in the XV Latin American Summit on Political Marketing and Governance, held in Miami September 5-7, 2018, where you Secretary General Luis Almagro expressed in an accusatory and threatening way: “it is completely unacceptable that another country from the continent goes off the cliff into dictatorship. We should also be aware that we cannot allow it, and that in each case we should provide responses from the international community to suffocate the dictatorship that also is being installed in Nicaragua”, this places in evidence your participation in the criminal, interventionist, escalation, promoting terrorist acts in the political, economic and military order that violate the Human Rights of the Nicaraguan people and that in an open interventionist attitude in violation of International Law, undermines the sovereignty of Nicaragua.
Likewise, your irresponsible, heinous and slanderous campaign against Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, in expressing falsehoods this past October 16, 2018 in the United Nations where you Secretary General Almagro stated: “We have always said that bad practices propagate. And the worst practices that we see today in our Hemisphere, that we see here today in the case of Venezuela and Nicaragua, come from Cuba. Venezuela and Nicaragua did not become dictatorships overnight. It was a slow process, from democratically elected governments that, desperate to hold on to power, dismantled one by one democratic institutions with the active support and encouragement from Havana. Now, like in Cuba, they continue in power through brute force and fear.”
Likewise, in the conference on Cuba this past December 7 in the OAS, you stated another falsehood about the “existence of terror and repression mechanisms that Cuba uses against its people and exports to Venezuela and Nicaragua.” Your lies and slander respond to your behavior as an instrument and political agent of the North American empire, interested in re-electing you in the Secretary General of the OAS.
With your declarations, you violated the Charter of the Organization of American States, which points out that the Secretary General should impartially promote economic, social, legal, educational, scientific and cultural relations among all the member States of the Organization. Your behavior is an outrage to the countries of the Hemisphere. Your lying and violent words, show that you do not have the capacity nor the qualities to continue occupying the responsibility of the Secretary General, and much less be elected in the same post.
Not even your own fellow citizens want you for your lying, slanderous, violent and irrational behaviors; expressed, among other things, in your sympathy and support for an eventual invasion and militar aggression against Venezuela. All this disqualifies and discredits you from continuing in the post and even more reason from attempting to be re-elected.
This explains the behavior of the IACHR, MESENI, GIEI and OHCHR who have formed themselves into a platform for the dissemination of false information to promote internationally sanctions against our country, just as the IACHR official María Claudia Pulido did in her visit to the US Congress this past September 27, promoting from abroad the rupture of constitutional order and the coup attempt against the legitimate Government of Nicaragua, thus violating the impartial character established in the OAS Charter.
Almagro, your previously mentioned interventions show that the actions carried out by the organizations of the OAS and the UN respond to the strategy of suffocating the people of Nicaragua announced by you, as was left demonstrated by the Report issued against Nicaragua by the High Commissioner of the UN on August 24, 2018, creating and preparing the conditions for the call that later the United States would make to include the topic of Nicaragua in the Informational Session of the Security Council of the UN on September 5, and the Permanent Council of the OAS, with the approval of the resolution “On Recent Events in Nicaragua” CP/RES.1110 (2182/18), which encourages Member States and Observers to implement measures that go to the detriment of the living conditions of Nicaraguans.
Such threats constitute an explicit violation of the OAS Charter and the Charter of the United Nations, breaking the principle of non intervention in the internal affairs of States, promoting actions that undermine the peace, security, stability and progress achieved by Nicaragua.
For the previous reasons, I am communicating to you the temporary suspension starting now of the Presence and visits of the Interamerican Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) and the Follow up Mechanism (MESENI). Likewise, I am communicating to you that in accordance with point 2 of the “Agreement between the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Government of Nicaragua to support the investigation of the events of violence occurred in the period between April 18, 2018 to May 30, 2018”, and because 6 months have passed since its signing, we also are communicating to you the expiration of the term, objectives and Mission, and in that sense we terminate the Mandate for the visit and permanence of the GIEI in our country. This temporary suspension of the IACHR, MESENI and the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) will be until the conditions for respect for the sovereignty and end of interference in the internal affairs of Nicaragua are re-established.
I take this opportunity to express the assurances of my regard.
As of Thursday Dec 13, 2018 the government has cancelled the legal status of nine NGOs in Nicaragua, some of the most prominent in the country working on human rights, promotion of democracy and independent media. These actions would seem to contradict the earlier proposal announced by the Vice President to promote a culture of peace and reconciliation, and lend credence to those who questioned the sincerity of the proposal. This report of the cancelation appeared on the website of one of the organizations´ media outlet, Confidencial.
In only one session, the Orteguista steamroller in the National Assembly cancelled the legal status of five non-profit organizations, and before midnight raided the offices of another four. The Center for Communication Research (CINCO), The Popol Na Foundation, the Institute for Development and Democracy (IPADE), the Rio Foundation (Fundación del Río) , and the Leadership Institute of the Segovias were cancelled in one more sign of the “dictatorial character” of the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, described Mónica López, president of Popol Na.
Board members of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH)- cancelled on December 12th -, the Popol Na Foundation, the Rio Foundation and the Leadership Institute of the Segovias denounced that close to midnight this past Thursday their offices were also raided by members of the National Police, even though this process should be done during working hours and with a specific warrant. At this moment the status of the installations of the intervened organizations is unknown.
In less than fifteen days the Ortega dictatorship has cancelled the legal status of nine organizations. The other previously cancelled legal status’ are the Center for Health Information and Consulting Services (CISAS), the Institute for Strategic Studies on Public Policies (IEEPP) and the organization Hagamos Democracia.
“In the history of Nicaragua we are unaware of precedents of this type. I am unaware of any similar action by Somoza. Nor are there precedents on the international level, except in fascist states and criminal dictatorships like those in Chile. Even though for me, the fact that they do this with the NGOs pales in comparison with what they have done: murdering more than 400 Nicaraguans, having 600 prisoners and political prisoners,” stated Baltodano.
Sofia Montenegro, the president of CINCO, said that the cancelation of the legal status’ is motivated by an enormous desire for revenge and vengeance, “particularly on the part of Rosario Murillo. This has her trademark.”
“I do not need legal status nor an office to continue investigating public opinion through the social networks, and I am responsible for my signature, my opinion and my face, and the only thing that is going to be left for Doña Rosario is to kill us to be able to shut us up, it will be seen there whether she will venture to do so, and whether the rest of the people are going to allow it. We are not going to be paralyzed, they are not going to shut us up, nor are we going to give up nor be frightened”, stated Montenegro.
The motives of the Ministry of the Interior
The petition for the annulment of the legal status of these five organizations was promoted by the Sandinista deputy Filiberto Rodríguez. The legislator accused the NGOs of not having boards of directors, not presenting accounting documents, and financing acts and campaigns to destabilize the country.
According to the information provided by the Ministry of the Interior, the organizations violated the following norms: Law 747, General law on non -profit legal statuses; Law 666, the organic law of the legislative branch of Nicaragua and Law 977, law against asset washing, financing for terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The executive director of Popol Nah said that the accusation of Rodríguez and the report of the Ministry of the Interior lack authenticity and is a “process full of lies and has absolutely nothing to do with the truth.”
Baltodano explained that November 9th she delivered to the Ministry of the Interior the documentation on the new board of directors of Popol Na, elected on the 4th of the same month, nevertheless, that state institution refused to sign and provide the certification.
“Since they would not receive us, on six occasions we went accompanied by a notary who prepared a notarial act about what had happened. They were told that we needed the certification of our board of directors. And the same thing happened with the delivery of the financial statements. Finally, we sent a letter to the Minister of the Interior, but she did not respond either. Currently we have an administrative appeal submitted to the appeals court,” pointed out Baltodano.
Sofia Montenegro remembered that in August 2008, following the orders of the presidency, the Minister of the Interior and the Prosecutor´s office accused CINCO of supposed criminal offenses without presenting any proof.
On that occasion the Police forcibly raided the offices of the organization, executing property seizures. They also lifted the bank secrecy of the members of the board of directors, and after spending five months the Prosecutors office did not find evidence to charge CINCO. Nevertheless, the harassment did not stop against this and other organizations promoting civil rights and democratic values.
“The persecution has lasted all these years. For me, it was a matter of time, waiting for the day in which that woman was going to come to close down CINCO,” asserted Montenegro.
Through a press release CINCO clarified that they have annually complied with their obligations with the General Office of Income and the Ministry of the Interior, getting their last certificate of compliance in 2017.
“Last Tuesday December 11, 2018 the secretary of the board of directors of CINCO went to an appointment with the Director of Civil Associations of the Ministry of the Interior, who requested the presentation of the accounting books and minutes by Thursday, December 13th. But before the Ministry received and reviewed the documents and confirmed the legality of CINCO, the National Assembly had already passed under an “emergency process” the cancelation of the legal status along with that of another four organizations, resorting to falsehoods and slanderous accusations”, reads part of the press release.
Deputy Miguel Rosales said in the plenary of the National Assembly that Nicaragua is facing a legislative guillotine that was cancelling legal status´ without presenting solid proof.
“We have not seen any of that proof. We are not aware of any. Do you know what proof we have and why we are defending these organizations? We have proof that these organizations have done good for Nicaragua on issues of democracy, investigative journalism, human rights,” pointed out Rosales.
It is a political attack
IPADE through a press release explained that the cancelation of the legal status by the National Assembly corresponds to “an attack of a political nature against the non- governmental organizations of the country,” which violates the rights and freedom of Nicaraguans to associate, just as article 49 of the Constitution dictates.
“In their quest to strip the legal status from IPAD and other organizations, the officials from the Ministry of the Interior and the deputies raised false accusations and imposed judgements of culpability, usurping functions that according to article 130 of the Constitution only belong to courts of justice,” reads the document.
IPADE pointed out that that action of an illegal nature “responds to the path of confrontational violence” designed to silence and crush the legitimate protest of all Nicaraguans, that continues against the NGOS,” in abuse of the right to the freedom of organization, expression and thought consecrated by the Constitution.”
IPADE has been in existence in the country for 28 years. It is one of the national and independent organizations with the greatest capacity to observe electoral processes. In 2008 it denounced anomalies in the municipal elections and in 2011 registered more irregularities. That same year it oversaw the presidential elections in spite of not having certification from the Supreme Electoral Council.
The Rio Foundation expressed through another press release that the cancelation of their legal status is the culmination of a series of harassment and pressures on an organization that, since the beginning of 2017, denounced the increase of the invasion of settlers in the Indio Maiz biological reserve. It pointed out that the interference increased after they denounced the fire in that nature area last April.
“As a result of the multiple violations of free organization and association of our organization on the part of the Ministry of the Interior, the Rio Foundation presented two protection orders against the Minister of the Interior, María Amelia Coronel and the Director of the Department of the Control and Registry of Associations, Gustavo Adolfo Sirias Quiroz, filed on February 26 and May 8 of 2018. Both protection orders are in the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice awaiting resolution,” highlighted the press release.
Accusations of “coup d´etat”
The Sandinista deputies stated earnestly that the organizations whose legal status had been withdrawn had distorted their objectives, and accused them of having used their institutional framework to create destabilization campaigns and support the supposed coup.
Baltodano assured that since the founding of Popol Na that organization has fulfilled its objectives and supported different social actions with municipalities from several provinces around the country. She remembered that after Ortega returned to power, he prohibited the municipal governments from working with the NGOs, which caused them to close their doors and the possibilities of working with the municipalities.
“Nevertheless, we continue pushing our lines of action connected to human rights, defense of nature and civil rights. We have carried out, and we are proud of having carried out, actions that allowed people to wake and rise up, we say that with a lot of pride,” said the president of Popol Na.
Baltodano remembered that after the approval of Law 840, Popol Na promoted an information campaign so that peasants might know the nefarious objectives that this law had in terms of the expropriation of their territories and the loss of forests and rivers.
On its part, CINCO rejected the accusations that connected that organization with the promotion of criminal acts of “destabilization of the country”, and of promoting an inexistent coup. In their press release, they pointed out that the “only coup promoters and destabilizers are those responsible for the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship, which has caused the worst massacre of national history during times of peace.”
“It is false that in this country there was a coup, and this is certified by the IACHR. There is no legal grounds to justify that, because the coup did not exist, it is an invention of theirs, it is ridiculous apart from being absurd”, stated Montenegro.
IPADE pointed out that the collective accusations against the non governmental organizations of the country are unfounded, arbitrary, illegal and in addition invalid. Likewise, they highlighted that they will reserve the exercise of their civil rights and will not renounce their legal status and assets, that they be restored when the rule of law previals in Nicaragua.
“We reject all the accusations issued today by the National Assembly based on the supposed report of the Ministry of the Interior which we disavow; and especially the opinion of Deputy Luis Coronel Cuadra, who in an ill-intentioned and irresponsible way connected us to acts of violence in the Rio San Juan province”, pointed out the press release of the Fundación del Río.
International organizations make pronouncements
Different human rights organizations condemned the cancelation of the legal status of five non governmental organizations carried out this Thursday by the deputies of the National Assembly.
“We make the following call: To the Organization of American States (OAS) to immediately convoke the Permanent Council and issue a resolution that would condemn these acts, as well as carry out all possible actions so that Nicaragua might cease their repressive acts”, indicated the Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL) [Center for Justice and International Law] in a press release.
Also the State Department of the United States made a statement about the cancelation of the NGOS.
The adjunct spokesperson for the State Department of the United States, Robert Palladino, condemned the annulment of the legal status´.
In the statement titled “Repression of civil society, human rights defenders and independent communications media in Nicaragua”, Palladino pointed out that the ongoing degradation of institutions in Nicaragua is part of the “President Daniel Ortega´s desperate attempt to hold on to power.”
Their untranslated names are: El Centro de Investigación de la Comunicación (Cinco), Fundación Popol Na, Instituto para el Desarrollo y la Democracia (Ipade), Fundación del Río y el Instituto de Liderazgo de las Segovias