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  Number 458 | Agosto 2019
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Nicaragua

Nicaragua briefs

CAPITAL SINS

In an article published by the Spanish newspaper El País titled “El sueño de la razón” (taken from the Goya painting, The sleep of reason produces monsters), Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramírez, Daniel Ortega’s Vice President between 1984 and 1990, wrote that “There are capital sins that define the history of a revolutionary process and ultimately define history itself. One capital sin of the leaders of the Nicaraguan revolution consisted of putting ideology before reality’s possibilities. As a redemptive idea, socialism pooh-poohed reality, and reality ended up imposing itself. The Leninist conceptions of power always floated overhead, in the vanguard stratum embodied in the nine comandantes. Very early the FSLN decided that the responsibility of governing belonged exclusively to it, and this was another capital sin. It not only distanced their allies, but even obstructed, or impeded, the formation or consolidation of opposition parties…. The only possibility for redeeming the poor was by creating wealth, but putting key sectors of economic property under state control, starting with the agrarian sector, and controls over both foreign and domestic commerce resulted in failure and the war created chaos in the initiatives of the social transformation that were the raison d’etre of the revolution. The most sobering of the revolution’s capital sins is the conception of political power forever in the hands of a single party, as it ends up without fail in the hands of one person, or of a family.”

CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY

According to Nicaraguan Harold Rocha, president of the Nicaraguan-American Center for Democracy ( (NACD) and an expert in international law, the Nica Act, approved by the US Congress on December 20, 2018, and Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13851, signed on November 27, 2018, declaring that under the Ortega regime Nicaragua represents a threat to US national security, provide the judicial path for invoking “universal justice” for the crimes against humanity committed in Nicaragua. Both permit charges to be filed in IS courts by victims of those crimes or their relatives, doing so through two federal laws: the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) and the Torture Victim Protection Act, even when the victims or their relatives are not US citizens or the crimes were not committed in the United States. “The Nica Act in itself does not open the door of the federal courts, but does provide an argument for invoking jurisdiction, because compliance with the law, the strengthening of the rule of law and justice for the victims of human rights abuses are recognized as US national and foreign policy.”

HOMEGROWN FASCISM

In a July 7 interview in the newspaper La Prensa, one-time FSLN ideologue Julio López Campos said that “in previous years we frequently discussed whether Nicaragua was an authoritarian regime or a dictatorship…. April’s events put an end to that debate. At that point everyone began to say unanimously that we are up against a dictatorship…. I want to go a bit beyond that because with the passage of time and seeing what has transpired, it‘s indispensable to confirm that we are facing a homegrown version of fascism…. This is not just an authoritarian regime. In recent years a new phenomenon has developed: a small group has appropriated for itself the rights of all of society. There is no possibility here that workers can organize independently and on their own behalf and can demand salary increases; there is no strike, no freedom of expression. Here the possibilities of independent media have been confiscated. Here no citizen can criticize the regime because he/she will be arrested. We are in a regime of permanent terror. The crisis was ripped awaythe veil and allowed us to see the nature of the regime transparently…. There is not only the Police here; there is also an hugely powerful paramilitary apparatus engaged in intelligence work, the creation of panic in people…. There is an apparatus of terror here that can only be described as fascist.”


AWARD-WINNING NICARAGUAN JOURNALISTS

Last December the TV channel 100% Noticias was illegally broken into by the Ortega regime, and its founder and director Miguel Mora and news director Lucía Pineda Ubau were imprisoned for six months for “inciting abuse and violence.” In July, the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) awarded Pineda its Courage in Journalism Prize for 2019, given to female journalists who “report on taboo topics, work in environments hostile to women and share difficult truths.” Days later, both she and Mora received the 2019 International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists and days after that Confidencial’s political cartoonist, Pedro X. Molina, won the Columbia University School of Journalism’s María Moors Cabot award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning,” the oldest international prize for journalism. Molina was selected because his “cartoons—exquisitely drawn and equally forceful—translate complicated situations for readers in Nicaragua and beyond. His vision effectively demonstrates the power of satire and cartooning as a way of furthering Inter-American understanding.”


IN MEMORY OF “RAY”

Former military turned paramilitary Pierson Gutiérrez was released from prison on July 23 thanks to the amnesty law ordered by Ortega on June 13. He had been sentenced to 15 years for “imprudent homicide” after a trial riddled with illegalities. His victim was the young Brazilian medical student Raynéia Gabrelle da Costa Lima, shot by him in her car a year to the day before his release. By applying the amnesty law to Gutiérrez, the regime accepted his crime as its own, confessing in fact that Gutiérrez was a political prisoner and the murder was a political crime, although Ortega personally denied it. Gutiérrez was tried only thanks to pressure from the government of Brazil. On July 27 Raynéia would have graduated from the American University of Managua (UAM). Her classmates planned to dedicate the graduation ceremony to her and were considering holding blue and white demonstrations during the act, but the regime suspended the ceremony on the excuse that one of Daniel Ortega’s granddaughters was graduating that same day with a major in industrial engineering and Ortega feared that there would be negative slogans and she would not be applauded. The majority of the more than 120 students graduating demanded their diplomas the morning of the scheduled day in an improvised ceremony in which the new professionals raised the blue and white flag and the new doctors recalled Rayméia with slogans and chants of “Long live Ray.”


AN END RUN AROUND THE SANCTIONS

To deal with so many sanctioned government officials, which gets in the way of directing and administering the respective government institutions, Ortega in mid-July ordered the National Assembly, whose votes he controls, to fast-track a reform to Law 290, on the Organization of the State, to permit him to name more than one deputy minister and several deputy vice ministers in any ministry and institution, with the accompanying salaries. Ortega also ordered amendments to the Organizational Law of the Legislative Branch, the National Assembly itself, eliminating all Assembly functions of its president, Gustavo Porras, sanctioned by both the United States and Canada in June. Porras remains in his post, but only as a figurehead. Ortega renamed as advisers some of those sanctioned, including Sonia Castro, who was replaced as minister of health while on a diplomatic junket. A few days later, Francisco López, fomer FSLN treasurer, former Albanisa vice president and former president of Petronic, Nicaragua’s state oil company, who was sanctioned by the US in July of last year, was named presidential adviser on production and trade issues. Ortega now has 26 advisers, some of whom were sanctioned and replaced in their posts, who now receive hefty salaries for their “advice.” There are two different hypotheses about this exaggerated number of advisers: “to make them feel he’s not abandoning them” and “to avoid them going around talking about things they shouldn’t.”

FUNES NATIONALIZED

The Ortega regime granted Nicaraguan nationality to Mauricio Funes, former President of El Salvador, on July 30. He had fled to Nicaragua several years ago to avoid prosecution for corruption in his own country. Funes has five arrest warrants open in El Salvador, the most important of which is for malfeasance of public funds amounting to US$351 million, which also merited him an international arrest warrant. Funes always said he was “politically persecuted,”but the recently inaugurated President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, pointed out that by assuming Nicaraguan nationality, which protects him from extradition, Funes “threw away the only argument he had, as Nicaragua’s Constitution does not grant nationality for political persecution.” According to official information, Nicaraguan nationality was also granted to Funes’ current partner and two of his children from previous wives. He and both of these children are on the payroll of the Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry, with high salaries.

A SEQUESTERED COUNTRY

“Nicaragua’s situation is extremely complex,” said Managuaua’s Auxiliary Bishop Silvio Béz, currently in Rome at the request of Pope Francis, in an interview the digital publication “Curia Generalizia Carmelitani Scalzi” reproduced in Spanish in La Prensa on July 17. “It is a country sequestered by a family and its cronies who, motivated by ambition for power and the desire to enrich themselves, have been destroying the social fabric. The democratic institutionality, the judicial system and the country’s economy are on the verge of collapse. Those who currently have power in Nicaragua have been building a dictatorial system with dynastic overtones, characterized by lies, cynicism, corruption, injustice, criminal repression and disrespect for human rights. The current struggle in Nicaragua is not for power, but to change the form of exercising power. In the near future the current government of Nicaragua will have to answer for all the crimes and misdemeanors it has committed against the people…. I want to invite my people to not give in to the temptation of violence and not lose hope of constructing a new society where there is a place for all.”

ORTEGA REJECTS CIVIC SOLUTION

The regime’s decision not to return to the negotiating table was not communicated to either the Nicaraguan people or the Civic Alliance, its counterpart inj the negotiations. It was learned only through the Vatican Nuncio, who reported that the official decision had been communicated to the Holy See on July 30. The Organization of American States also received the notification, but said nothing about it until August 5. Ortega’s current plan is to “negotiate” a few electoral reforms with the five bought-off parties that have a seat or two in the legislative body. On August 2, the Civic Alliance published a communique in which it responded that “Unilateralism and the intent to make reforms with actors questioned by Nicaraguan Society outside of the Negotiation Table cannot generate the confidence and credibility necessary for Nicaraguans to be able to choose the government that ensures the country’s democratization through truly democratic elections.… Given this new challenge by the regime, we invite all democratic forces in the country to Assembly strengthen their efforts at unity and organization to continue the civic and peaceful struggle and achieve the change of government through the democratic path and reject the efforts to impose a cosmetic, exclusionary and perk-based electoral reform that facilities the regime’s continuation in power.”

DOCTORS’ PROTEST

On August 3, a group of doctor and other health professionals demonstrated in Managua to denounce the abuses against their medical organization. They were surrounded by a disproportionate number of anti-riot police. In the protest, José Luis Borge, president of the Nicaraguan Medical Union, reported that 105 health professionals have been fired for political reasons and 76 had to leave the country for reasons of harassment and reprisals, 56 of whom are in Costa Rica, 10 in the United States and the rest in Europe.

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