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  Number 452 | Marzo 2019
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Nicaragua

Nicaragua briefs

SENTENCES AGAINST PEASANT LEADERS

the rural farmers Medardo Mairena, Tedro Mena and Luis Orlando Icabalceta, leaders of the anti-canal peasant movement, received extraordinary sentences from Judge Edgar Altamirano: 216 years in prison for Mairena, 210 for Mena, and 159 for Icabalceta. The three were accused on various counts: organized crime, terrorism, kidnapping, obstruction of public service, among others, and of being the masterminds of the killing in July 2018 of four police officers and a teacher in Morrito, Río San Juan. Although the prosecuting attorney could not prove their participation in these acts, the absurdly disproportionate sentences the judge handed down were many years more than the prosecutor had called for. The sentences, unheard of in the country’s history—in fact, the maximum sentence brought in with the 1979 revolution was 30 years, and for first-degree murder—had a clear political message that reached beyond the April 2018 rebellion. Ever since 2013, the main movement opposing the Ortega-Murillo government, and certainly the most unflagging one, was the anti-canal peasant movement.

IACHR FINDS NICARAGUAN
REELECTION ILLEGAL

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) announced that
it has accepted the case against the Nicaraguan State filed in 2012 by Fabio Gadea, a presidential candidate in the November 2011 elections. Gadea argued that his rival in that race, Daniel Ortega, had violated the Nicaraguan Constitution by running, as it expressly prohibits presidential reelection for more than two terms and for two consecutive terms. Ortega’s first term as President was between 1984 and 1990, and his second between 2007 and 2011. The frequency with which Latin American heads of State—among them Óscar Arias of Costa Rica, Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Lula da Silva of Brazil—have sought reelection, some, like Ortega, alleging that it is a human right independent of what the Constitution says, has become an international debate issue. In April 2018, the European Commission for Democracy through Law, also known as the Venice Commission, rejected indefinite reelection and the constitutional provisions that permit reelection. Luis Almagro, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, was unequivocal in stating that “reelection is not a human right.” The IACHR’s eventual resolution regarding Gadea’s suit could set jurisprudence and contribute to the illegitimacy of Ortega’s two successive terms (2011-2016 and 2017-2021)

POLITICAL PRISONERS

The Committee for the Liberty of Political Prisoners released a message from eight women prisoners who announced they had been on an indefinite hunger strike for nine days in protest against the Civic Alliance for initiating negotiations with the Ortega regime without the prior release of all political prisoners. Among other things, they say that “We have been illegally kidnapped for months, subjected to repression, constant humiliations, cruel and inhuman treatment daily, and instead of feeling represented, we feel like simple pieces on a game board where they are playing for political and economic control. We do not understand how we got to this situation in which a dialogue is being installed despite there being more than 500 dead, 700 imprisoned, 1,000 wounded and tens of thousands in exile, and the government continues to show no will to resolve the sociopolitical conflict,
is still repressing. tprturing and killing the population with with pro-Ortega paramilitaries and police. We haven’t surrendered or given up; we have experienced the repression in our territories and suffered the death of our brothers in the struggle to defend justice and democracy… Don’t let any more time pass because that’s what the dictator needs. This regime feigns more strength than it really has, but it can strengthen itself through pacts or indifference toward its crimes.”

AI ON THE UN’S ROLE

In an interview published in the Nicaraguan news daily La Prensa on March 7, Erika Guevara, Amnesty International director for the Americas, said “the government of President Ortega has shown no real interest in working with the regional or international human rights bodies to resolve the crisis. To
the contrary, he has tried to evade international scrutiny…. To this worrying scenario must be added the victims’ lack of options for gaining access to justice and to an effective national remedy. In this context, we consider that the international community’s role is fundamental, as part of which it is important for the United Nations Human Rights Council to undertake additional actions to address the human rights situation in Nicaragua, adopt a resolution that clearly establishes the corrective measures the Nicaraguan government needs to take, and put into effect an observation mechanism and the presentation of reports. A resolution would help avoid greater deterioration of the situation and send a clear message to the government of President Ortega by showing that the international community isn’t willing to continue tolerating incompliance with his obligations on human rights issues. Moreover, it would be a show of accompaniment by the international community to the victims
of the grave human rights violations committed in Nicaragua.”

MUDDLED DECLARATIONS
BY THE POLICE CHIEF

In a first and only interview, given as an exclusive to the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet, Nicaraguan Police Chief Francisco Díaz, whose daughter is married to one of Ortega and Murillo’s sons, ended up giving three different versions about the heavily armed and hooded parapolice who have worked with the police in the repressive operations against the population since the April rebellion. First he stated that they were “volunteer police in preventive actions.” Then to explain why they covered their faces he said it was because they were police agents involved “in covert actions.” And finally he admitted they were “professional police.” Guatemalan jurist Claudia Paz y Paz, who is one of the four members of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), called Díaz’s declarations “surprising” and “extremely serious” for several reasons. Covert actions are exceptional police operations like infiltrating organizations such as drug trafficking rings, and police trained for that are never to be sent out to confront protestors or a demonstration. And if they are professional police they can’t operate in civvies; they have to be uniformed given administrative and penal responsibilities should they engage in activities with an abuse of force.

DENNIS MARTÍNEZN ON SELL-OUTS

In February, Nicaragua’s retired major league baseball star Dennis Martínez offered declarations to sports journalist Edgar Tijerino about what has happened in Nicaragua since April that were carried by Nicaragua’s El Nuevo Diario newspaper. He spoke of “barbarities” that he finds “inconceivable” in the 21st century. He encouraged a “change of mentality” to recover what he defined as “our values” of dignity and principles. He also referred to his own experience: “I have never been in the situation of being dominated, and I don’t understand why people are subjected…. I can’t comprehend people who sell themselves or subject themselves in exchange for perks, money…. One’s dignity is very important. The problems we’re seeing come from everyone wanting an easy buck.”

REPORT ON WEAPONS OF WAR

the European organization Bellingcat, which specializes in investigations in
war zones and areas of human rights abuses, presented a report in Holland on February 11, on the weapons of war used by police and parapolice to repress the Nicaraguan population. Bellingcat, founded by British journalist Eliot Higgins, used “open source evidence,” as the photos and videos circulating on the Internet and social media are called. The enormous amount of information on the Internet about what happened in Nicaragua between April and August allowed Bellingcat to establish that the Nicaraguan regime used weapons of war to repress street protests,dismantle roadblocks and barricades and attack demonstrators. Among other weapons, it identified M-79 grenade launchers, Dragunov rifles, AK automatic rifles, Mossberg 500 shotguns, Galil rifles, KM assault rifles, PKM machine guns and XPR rtwo-way radios. The report defined as “acts of war” the regime’s operations on July 13 against youths barricaded in the UNAN’s Managua campus who took refuge in the Divine Mercy Church, and against the Masaya population on July 17 and 18.

AWARD TO FRANCISCA RAMÍREZ

On March 6, the Czech NGO People in Need awarded Nicaraguan peasant leader Francisca Ramírez the “Homo Homini” Prize for human rights defenders in Prague. She was notified of the award in Costa Rica, where she took refuge last September after being besieged by her government. Her response to the news was that “this prize is for the people of Nicaragua, the men and women who are imprisoned, the mothers and fathers who don’t have their children, the journalists who are in jail and who have fled and the Nicaraguans like me who also had to flee from our homes and are now suffering cold and hunger away from our homeland, far from our own land. I consider that the prize is for the peaceful civic struggle that we people of Nicaragua decided to engage in and cpntinue to be committed to until Nicaragua is free, until justice is achieved and the dictator leaves.” In 2018, some 60,000 Nicaraguans asked for protection in Costa Rica, another 1,400 in Spain and thousands more in Panama and the United States.

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