Regime cancels and assaults NGOs

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.

Regime cancels and assaults NGOs

By Maynor Salazar, Dec 14, 2018 in Confidencial

( Spanish version at: https://confidencial.com.ni/regimen-cancela-y-asalta-a-ong/ )

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[1]. 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.”

[1]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

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