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  Number 461 | Noviembre 2019
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Nicaragua

Nicaragua briefs

ORTEGA GOVERNMENT NO. 1 LETHAL
REPRESSOR OF CIVIL PROTESTS

On October 25, Nicaragua’s daily newspaper La Prensa presented a journalistic investigation showing that Nicaragua’s regime has been the most lethal in the world during this last year and a half. It counted the deaths caused by 15 governments in response to civic protests for varying reasons. During the period April 2018 to October 2019, the Nicaraguan government caused 328 deaths, documented by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the world record for bloodshed by repression in a year that has seen particularly high protest activity in the world. Far behind follow the regimes in Israel (195 deaths), Sudan (138), Iraq (129), India (92), Venezuela (80), Haiti (30), Honduras (28), Iran (26), Chile (19), France (11), Zimbabwe (8), Ecuador (8), Peru (2) and Lebanon (2).

IF IT WERE YOUR CHILD?”

On the Day of the Dead, November 2,
the Mothers of April celebrated a Mass in Managua’s Cathedral in memory of their children killed by the dictatorship since April 2018. Upon leaving, the mothers and fathers held a protest on the Cathedral grounds. They raised pictures of their children in their hands and said their names, chorusing “Presente!” after each one. Together with them, activists then raised in their hands the names of the Supreme Court justices who ordered political trials against those arrested and imprisoned and have been insensitive to the national tragedy. After saying the name of each justice loud and clear, they all shouted in unison:: “And if it were your child…?”


UPDATE ON THE
REGIME’S MEDIA ASSAULTS

In its 173rd ordinary period of sessions, the IACHR had asked the Nicaraguan State for an explanation of the illegal occupation of the TV channel 100% Noticias and confiscation of its equipment in December 2018, and the arrest and imprisonment of owner/reporter Miguel Mora, and his press chief Lucía Pineda for months. The response was that the confiscated goods is will not be returned tbecause it they were the instrument with which Mora and Pineda “instigated and fomented hate and violence.” What that news channel actually did between April and December 2018, when it was shut down, was what any good news program should do: it covered everything that was happening during the long civic uprising. Mora never was taken to trial. Regarding to the illegal occupation in the same period of the installations of the daily bulletin Confidencial, directed by Carlos Fernando Chamorro, the response was simply that there are two appeals in process before the Supreme Court. The regime also closed the case of the fire that destroyed Radio Dario, in León. That fire was the result of an attack on April 20, 2018, masterminded by FSLN legislative representative Filiberto Rodríguez and cost the lives of its two perpetuators.

NEW WORLDWIDE HUMAN RIGHTS
RESOLUTION AGAINST NICARAGUA

Nongovernmental human rights organizations of 134 countries, members of the International Federation for Human Rights, meeting in Taiwan in their 40th Congress, unanimously approved a resolution on Nicaragua presented by
the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH). Its main part “condemns the Ortega-Murillo regime’s brutal repression and its violation of the rule of law and
the human rights of the Nicaraguan people; demands that the Nicaraguan State immediately cease the persecution of human rights organizations and return the assets and legal status taken from CENIDH and eight other nongovernmental organizations; that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to keep watch over the Ortega-Murillo regime and monitor the persistent repression it has unleashed in Nicaragua; and that the international community maintain and increase the pressure on the Nicaraguan regime, take measures to stop the serious and persistent human rights violations and judge and sanction those responsible, even applying individual sanctions as some States have done.”


EL NUEVO DIARIO NEWSPAPER CLOSED
AND LA PRENSA THREATENED

Nicaragua’s El Nuevo Diario, founded in 1980 as a pro-revolution split from the rightwing La Prensa, stopped circulating and suspended its digital edition on September 27 due to economic difficulties. The, 93-year-old La Prensa, once a paper opposed to the Somoza regime, has had to reduce its pages to a minimum after more than a year of a customs blockade retaining its paper, ink and other resources needed for printing. The same reprisal was also applied to El Nuevo Diario. On October 9, the IACHR’s Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua and its Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression demanded the regime lift the customs blockade, stating that the end of the printed edition of La Prensa “would be a landmark in the censoring of the media in Nicaragua.”

WAY OPENED FOR EU SANCTIONS

On October 14 the foreign ministers of the 28 countries in the European Union approved the legal framework for applying sanctions on officials of the Nicaraguan regime . The framework establishes the possibility of imposing specific individual sanctions on persons and entities responsible for human rights violations and abuses or repression of civil society and the democratic opposition in Nicaragua, as well as on those whose actions, policies or activities diminish Nicaraguan democracy and the rule of law in any way. The sanctions consist of travel bans to the EU and the freezing of assets. In addition, individuals and established entities in the EU are banned from making funds available for those on the list. According to the document: the framework allows for a “gradual and flexible approach” to the individual designation of travel bans and freezing of assets as things proceed, in which, specific designations can be added should the stalemate and subsequent deterioration of human rights and rule of law continue, or revoked in the case of positive and decisive progress.

THREATS AND INSULTS

On October 4, in a celebration of the 140th birthday of Benjamin Zeledón, a national hero in the struggle against US military intervention, Daniel Ortega “threatened” In his speech to take the opposition to the International Criminal Court for its “crimes.” He announced that work is being done to “document” the criminal acts of the “coup-mongers.” Such rhetoric he shows his ignorance, as the ICC only investigates and sanctions state officials. Days later, in a reception on October 16 for new ambassadors, Ortega insulted the European Union, claiming it “groveled” to follow US policies against Nicaragua. He also said he finds it “incredible” and “shameful” that the EU has Josep Borrell, a Catalan, in charge of foreign affairs, who Ortega said is “crazed” and just “rants and raves.” Borrell had clearly incurred Ortega’s wrath by defining Nicaragua’s situation as worse than in Venezuela.” Ambassador Pelayo Castro, the EU’s new representative to our country, was only two feet away
from Ortega, trying hard to hide his astonishment.

THE 2020 NATIONAL BUDGET

The Nicaraguan national budget for 2020, presented to the National Assembly at the end of October, doesn’t hide the national economic crisis, product of the regime’s refusal to consider a political solution. It officially recognized that this year’s gross domestic product could fall another 3.5%, but since it fell 3.8% last year, the government considers this an “improvement” and now they can speak not only about political “normality” but also about economic “recovery.” According to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, Nicaragua’s economy will actually fall 5% in 2019. The IMF also predicts that the recession will continue into 2022. Based this on the persistent lack of confidence by consumers and businesses, independent economist Néstor Avendaño maintains his prediction that this year’s decline will reach 8.7%. He sees the same lack of confidence in the government because of the financial sanctions and “new risks stalking them in the short term,.” Avendaño believes it is “highly probable that the economy will continue to decline in 2020, with or without dialogue.

THE 2020 POLICE BUDGET

The 2020 budget has a record-breaking allocation for the Police, almost 4oo million córdobas, an average of nearly 1.1 million córdobas a day for the regime’s repressive apparatus, far more than the most important state institutions charged with improving people’s lives receive. Over this year, the official media have reported on three new police graduations, totaling 1,811 new agents incorporated into the institution. In March 400 graduated, in June 635 and in October 776 (553 men and 223 women in the latter case).

THE 2020 MUNICIPAL
GOVERNMENT BUDGET

The 2020 budget slashes the transfers that, by law, the central government must make to the country’s 153 municipal governments. Instead of 10% of the national tax income, it will only transfer 4% next year. And not surprisingly, since the rule of law is already out the window, the cut will be greater for the 17 municipal governments in the opposition’s hands, as has already been the case for the past five years. The only municipal government that will receive abundant resources is Managua.

LESTHER ALEMÁN RETURNS

Central American University student Lesther Alemán returned to Nicaragua on October 7, after spending a little over a year in exile. “I come to fight and my conviction is the same as that of many youths,” he said at the airport. Alemán, a member of the Civic Alliance, made international news on the inaugural day of the national dialogue, May 16, 2018, when he directly confronted Ortega before the TV cameras in a way nobody had dared do before. Alemán was clear in saying that for those who abandoned the country there “are no guarantees” of return with any security of not being followed, harassed and imprisoned, as has happened to several. “I don’t encourage anyone to return,” he said; “the fears and risks are different.” The return of exiles is a controversial issue. Luciano García, president of the nongovernmental organization Hagamos Democracia, who is currently exiled in Costa Rica, said that the return those who have a high political profileof “risk the request for refuge being denied to thousands of other exiles not sheltered by their fame.” Sociologist Óscar René Vargas, also exiled in Costa Rica,
thinks the return of exiles could only be significant if more than 5,000 return in a march to the border “because returning one by one doesn’t change the internal correlation of forces.”

OUT OF CAFTA?

Mario Arana, president of the American Chamber of Commerce, (AMCHAM Nicaragua), a member of the Civic Alliance, said on an October 18 program on TV channel 4, owned by COSEP, the umbrella organization of Nicaragua’s business chambers, that Nicaragua runs the risk that the US will kick it out of the Central American and Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR): “We know,” he said, “that the US is talking about potential suspension from CAFTA if this crisis doesn’t reach a political agreement.” A decision like this would mean a loss of 125,000 jobs and affect more than half a million people who benefit from the preferential trade with the US since CAFTA started in 2006. “Daniel Ortega must reconsider and be rational in his decisions to avoid such a harsh sanction.”


THE LONGEST PATH

Confidencial’s political cartoonist Pedro X Molina, winner of the Maria Moors Cabot journalism in in his field, put his pen to a new purpose, writing this analysis of Nicaragua’s reality: “For months after April 2018, talking with people close to me, as well as in places where I was invited to share my opinion, they said they saw two paths to get rid of the dictatorship: the fast one and the slow one. The fast one was continuous pressure and resistance in the entire country, which would require a lot of effort concentrated in a short period
of time. The results would be that the economic crisis wouldn’t last so long
and the rebound effect of getting rid of the vicious dictatorship would
quickly motivate—both nationally and internationally—a speedy economic
and institutional recovery. The other path was the slow one: wearing down the dictatorship, but also wearing down the economy and peoples’ spirits, and with more difficult consequences needing healing in the economy and the social fabric, which each day would be destroyed by killings, kidnappings, exile, and deepression… Many months later it clearly seems we took the longest path… Nobody can save the dictatorship, but we can save Nicaragua… The question is, do we want to?”

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