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  Number 446 | Septiembre 2018
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Nicaragua

Nicaragua briefs

APA SOUNDS A NICARAGUA ALARM”

A joint mission of the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) and Reporters without Borders, headed by IAPA President Gustavo Mohme, visited Nicaragua for three days to learn more about freedom of expression in the context of the country’s crisis. The mission held 30 meetings with journalists, media directors and members of both the Catholic Church and civil society. In its preliminary conclusions, the mission “found a communication policy involving a single discourse and propaganda that includes massive disinformation campaigns through the media; the creation of a duopolistic apparatus of government press bodies, including its own, coopted ones and those aligned with official criteria; an ongoing culture of secrecy about official information that violates the law of Access to Public Information through which the President and his officials avoid contact with the press; and the application of a law on financing terrorism that could be used to silence critical media and dissident citizens who are not in accord with the single official narrative.” On August 30, the IAPA published a “Nicaragua alert” in more than a thousand written media of the continent.

NEW POLICE CHIEF

On August 23, months of rumors regarding the resignation or dismissal Police Chief Aminta Graneracame to an end when Daniel Ortega published her “cessation” as director of the National Police in La Gaceta, the official government daily. Granera, who once headed the approval list of public officials in all opinion polls, had occupied the post for nearly two terms more than is stipulated in the police law, although in name only for the past two years. Her last public appearance was at Ortega’s side in a televised meeting on April 21, three days into the police brutality against student demonstrators that sparked the crisis Nicaragua is still suffering. Ortega also published his appointment Francisco Díaz as her replacement. Díaz, whose daughter is married to one of Ortega’s sons, has been heading police operations de facto since July 5, the same day the US Treasury Department applied Global Magnitsky sanctions to him. Ortega additionally ratified general police commissioners Adolfo Marenco and Ramón Avellán as sub-directors. Marenco is the head of Police Intelligence and Investigation and acts as the political secretary of the governing Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN)
within the police institution. Avellán “distinguished” himself when he headed up the repressive police and paramilitary operations in Masaya, where he was effectively besieged for weeks as many residents put up a strong resistance. Adding insult to the brutal repression of that population, Avellán was decorated by the mayoral authority as a “beloved son of Masaya” at the end of August.

NEW US AMBASSADOR

Kevin Sullivan, the new US ambassador to Nicaragua, appeared in the customary Senate hearings on August 22. In response to senators’ questions he said that Nicaragua’s political crisis is a danger both to Nicaraguans and the entire region, adding that he considered the plan of sanctions against Ortega to be “essential” as serious response to the human rights violations. He also declared that the “sustainable” solution to the crisis is “free, fair and transparent elections with international observation.” Sullivan sees Ortega’s relations with Russia and that country’s military aid to Nicaragua as a threat to US security and said that once confirmed as ambassador he will work to assure that those who are responsible for the violence “are held accountable for their villainy.”

NICARAGUANS IN COSTA RICA

In a speech to his followers on August 30, Daniel Ortega announced that he would formally propose that the government of Costa Rica “provide us a list of all Nicaraguans who are requesting refuge, asylum or whatever there so we can tell them: Look, these are the ones on that list being accused of crimes…. And if they want them to stay there in Costa Rica, they can let them… And to those who feel free of sin, we’re telling them they can return to Nicaragua; that no one’s going to touch them, no one’s going to capture them.” According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 24,000 Nicaraguans have crossed the border into Costa Rica to avoid being “touched” or “captured” for the “sin”
of opposing the regime. Costa Rican Deputy Foreign Relations Minister Lorena Aguilar responded that “Costa Rica doesn’t give that information to any country. Releasing confidential or sensitive information about these people goes against all international human rights law regarding refugees… No country that has signed international conventions is going to give information governed by principles of confidentiality.”

COSTA RICA IN THE
UN SECURITY COUNCIL

During the September 5 United Nations Security Council meeting, which discussed Nicaragua’s crisis, Costa Rica’s representative said it represented
a risk to regional peace and security. Following the session, Costa Rica’s foreign relations minister issued a communique saying that his country “will continue to raise its voice in defense of a populetion subjected to arbitrary actions that break with the obligations stipulated in the different human rights agreements until reason, good judgment and unrestricted respect for human rights returns to Nicaragua.”

COSTA RICAN XENOPHOBIA

Serious xenophobic acts of violence occurred in San José’s Las Merced Park on August 18 aimed at the Nicaraguan community that traditionally gathers in that area of Costa Rica’s capital. The police detained 44 people and seized numerous Molotov cocktails. Three days later, Costa Rica’s last seven Presidents (Arias, Calderón, Figueres, Rodríguez, Pacheco, Chinchilla and Solís) issued a joint communique stating that “perverse interests could be trying to destroy our harmony and stir up hate and xenophobia. We will not allow ourselves to fall into temptation.” On August 25, Nicaraguans and Costa Ricans marched in a massive demonstration in San José under the banner “Ticos and Nicas are brothers.” Nicaragua’s comandante Mónica Baltodano said in a long interview with Teletica Radio that there is no reason to doubt that those who provoked the act of repudiation in the park were organized by “agents” of the Ortega regime. She stated that they had infiltrated into Costa Rica to pursue people fleeing death back home and to encourage conflicts with the Costa Rican government given its openness to receive such Nicaraguans and give them refugee status. Baltodano agreed with the former Presidents´ reference to “perverse inerests.”

ELECTIONS IN NICARAGUA’S
“AUTONOMOUS” CARIBBEAN REGION

On a stage decorated with extremely expensive genetically modified blue roses, Lumberto Campell, the Caribbean Coast’s only FSLN comandante and
now president of the Supreme Electoral Council, officially called for regional elections in the two autonomous Caribbean regions, which according to the legal electoral calendar must be held on Sunday, March 3, 2019. Campell recently replaced Roberto Rivas after the latter was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department under the Global Magnitsky Act. While the announcement was an attempt to portray a sense of normality, there was no mention of any reforms to the electoral system, despite a commitment to overhaul the collapsed system signed over a year ago by President Ortega and the Organization of American States General Secretariat. While Ortega’s satellite parties announced they would participate, the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy met with the board of the largest indigenous coast party, Yatama, and identified four reasons why these elections should not be held: the socioeconomic crisis the country is going through, the frauds committed during the past three regional elections, the nonexistent autonomy and self-government in the Caribbean region and the Nicaraguan State’s incompliance
with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights´ 2005 sentence regarding Yatama’s grievances.

THERE WILL BE JUSTICE

Carlos Trujillo, US ambassador to the OAS, said in a telephone interview with La Prensa in mid-August that “We have all possible sanctions against the government of Nicaragua…. Things cannot continue the way they´re going. It isn´t correct to think that everything is fine, that things are going to work themselves out. I know that civil society and the Civic Alliance understand that; I only hope that the government can also accept that things in Nicaragua have to change, and as soon as possible…. The people who are violating human rights will be judged. We have said it on various occasions. If they think they’re not going to have their day of justice because they are in Nicaragua and are currently being protected by the government, they’re mistaken because everything is going to come to light. The day will come for people who have committed violence against civilians and human rights violations and they are going to be judged.”

DOCTORS SANCTIONED

Sources in the Nicaraguan Medical Association reported that as a result of the first 135 doctors being fired by the government as political reprisal for having treated the wounded in the protests, “over 3,000 years of studies and more than 4,000 years of medical services have been thrown into the garbage.” Some 80% of these doctors are specialists. One concrete consequence was seen in León’s hospital school in August, where a child suffering hemorrhagic dengue died due to the absence of three specialists Pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Gladys Amanda Jarquín attended to such cases, but was fired in July. The child was already in serious condition when taken to the hospital and should have been treated by Dr. Edgard Zúniga, a pediatrician, who was also fired. As the boy also had pulmonary problems, he should have been seen by pediatric pulmonologist Dr. Jorge Alemán, who had also been fired. José Miguel Vivanco, director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch, said that “firing doctors is more proof that the Ortega government is more interested in ensuring absolute power than in guaranteeing Nicaraguans’ basic rights.” The dismissal of doctors for political reasons is one of the repressive measures causing the biggest scandal in the international community.



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