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  Number 469 | Agosto 2020
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Nicaragua

Nicaragua Briefs

DEADLY CELEBRATIONS IN LA TRINIDAD

During the afternoon of July 19, a vehicle carrying FSLN sympathizers was driving through a neighborhood of La Trinidad in the department of Estelí. When 44-year-old Jorge Luis Rugama Rizo reacted by shouting “Long live free Nicaragua!” a man climbed down, took out a pistol and shot Rugama in the neck. He died on the spot in front of his mother. The perpetrator was immediately recognized by neighbors as Abner Pineda, who is the head of purchases and procurements at the Estelí Mayor’s Office and a known paramilitary. He later turned himself in to the Police, who claimed that the shooting had followed a brawl, probably well aware that he will eventually be freed even if tried and found guilty of homicide.Daniel Ruiz, who says he was Pineda’s teacher at the Regional Multidisciplinary Faculty of Estelí, posted the following message on the social media: “Long live Abner, my brother, my student, my comrade! To the idiots who believe they will always be untouchable, just know that sooner or later there will be thousands and thousands of Abners! Thank you for doing your duty, comrade!”
The next day, Rugama’s body was taken to the cemetery accompanied by dozens of neighbors amid songs associated with the blue and white opposition. While he was being buried, his aunt’s house, which was unoccupied at the time, was engulfed in flames. The fire department did not respond to neighbors’ calls and nobody ever investigated the cause of the blaze.

COSEP’S PRESIDENT SKETCHED OUT

On July 8, Lucydalia Baca and Eduardo Enríquez published the following summary of José Adán Aguerri’s presidency of COSEP in the digital publication Cuarto Mono: “José Adán Aguerri Chamorro was unanimously elected president of COSEP [the Superior Council of Private Enterprise] in September 2007 through the votes of its 11-member chambers. Following his election, he began to expand the umbrella organization’s membership to create a greater base of voters. There are currently 26 chambers, of which 22 have the right to vote. Several of those that emerged with Aguerri’s ’support’ remain loyal to him. This growth was justified as guaranteeing the income to sustain COSEP’s operations and services. Each chamber with the right to vote pays US$1,000 a month in dues and the others pay US$500. Other income comes from the contribution of the so-called ‘advisers,’ who are none other than the country’s 10-12 biggest capitalists. Another change Aguerri brought in is dedicating himself full-time to the role of president. His detractors admit that the work of the business association needs to be full time, but feel it has to be done by an executive director with a good salary and not ‘ad honorem,’ as Aguerri is officially doing it with no designated salary. Privately his colleagues are saying that ‘someone must be paying him.’”

CURIOUS NARCODOLLAR SEIZURES

Since the beginning of 2020, the Police have repeatedly seized large amounts
of narcodollars “abandoned” by drug traffickers in different parts of the country. Curiously no drugs are reportedly found in these seizures, and the owners of the loot rarely put in an appearance. Between January 25 and July 2, the Police made 15 “busts,” seizing US$11,543,623 and detaining just seven people. The seizures are well publicized in pro-government media as “major blows to drug trafficking.” “My suspicion,” says security expert Roberto Cajina, “is that the regime needs money and money is reaching it illegally.” Others suspect that the money from these “blows to drug trafficking” belongs to the regime and is being “laundered” this way as the government can no longer circulate it in national or international banks due to the sanctions.
At the end of July, the annual Anti-Money Laundering Index of the Basel Institute on Governance—which ranks 141 economies according to the risk of money laundering and terrorist financing—determined that Nicaragua is second only to Haiti as the country at greatest risk of money laundering in Latin American and the Caribbean. Its score of 6.78 out of 10 puts it in the “high-risk” category.

SANCTIONING IMPLEMENTATION
MDE MORE “FLEXIBLE”

On July 16, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it was amending the Nicaraguan Sanctions Regulations to improve coordination between OFAC processes and the mandate contained in the NICA Act. Although this is technically motivated, it has strengthened OFAC’s internal processes, giving it even greater flexibility in the implementation of future sanctions against Ortega regime officials.

AUGUST FESTIVITIES SUSPENDED

The Managua Equestrian Association announced In July that it would not hold its traditional horse parades on August 1 and 10, which coincide with Managua festivities and processions in honor of Saint Dominic [Santo Domingo]. This is the third yeariin a row that the parades, which normally attract thousands of people, have not been held. They were first suspended in 2018 “in solidarity with the pain and mourning of many families” caused by the killings perpetrated by the Ortega regime in response to the April rebellion that year. The next year the parade was only held on August 1 with limited participation from both riders and the public. On July 12 this year, in order to prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus, the Archbishopric of Managua suspended all activities in honor of “Minguito,” as the diminutive image of the saint is affectionately known, especially the mass processions tat accompany the carrying of tit from the church of Las Sierritas down to Managua on August 1 and then back again on August 10. In cancelling these events, the Catholic hierarchy called on people to celebrate “spiritually and virtually.”

FOR WHOM DOES THE BELL TOLL?

A 17-meter concrete structure containing a 2-meter-high bronze bell was inaugurated as part of the celebrations marking the anniversary of the triumph of the Sandinista revolution on July 19. This project, which was dreamed up by Vice President Rosario Murillo at a cost of just over US$ 800,000, is located in the old center of Managua, destroyed by the 1972 earthquake and remodelled by recent governments. The bell is engraved with the words “Always beyond, as brothers and sisters I will ring out and strike the hours for my homeland of Nicaragua.” The bell will mark the hours from 6 am to 10 pm every day, as well as the Angelus at 6 in the morning, midday and 6 in the evening.
THE SEVERITY OF THE PANDEMIC

Opening the 44th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet twice highlighted the bad management of the pandemic by certain governments, including Nicaragua. She first noted that “in the Russian Federation, China, Kosovo, Nicaragua and many other countries, I note reports of threats and intimidation against journalists, bloggers and civic activists, particularly at the local level, with the apparent aim of discouraging criticism of the authorities’ responses to COVID-19." Further on she added that “in Belarus, Brazil, Burundi, Nicaragua, Tanzania and the United States—among others—I am concerned that statements that deny the reality of viral contagion, and increasing polarization on key issues, may intensify the severity of the pandemic by undermining efforts to curb its spread and strengthen healthcare systems.” Bachelet again referred to Nicaragua on July 2, stating that “There is also little transparency and a lack of clarity in public information about cases” and “some government measures do not comply with the recommendations of WHO, PAHO, and the Nicaraguan medical community, especially regarding physical distancing.” The Nicaraguan delegation responded by claiming that “As well as fighting against the pandemic, Nicaragua must also fight the disinformation and hate campaigns coming from sectors opposed to the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity.”

THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT

On July 24, 28 Nicaraguan civil society organizations launched an SOS to the United Nations to activate the UN-established “responsibility to protect” in our country. In the 2005 World Summit,
all of the heads of state and government confirmed the responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, based on three pillars:each State’s responsibility to protect its populations, the responsibility of the international community to help States protect their populations, and the responsibility of the international community to protect a State’s populations when it is evident that the State is not doing so. The Nicaraguan organizations also called on the world’s countries to continue applying sanctions to Ortega government officials who violate human rights. For some, activating this responsibility would imply the UN declaring the Ortega regime “illegitimate,” a good number of countries breaking relations with it and, eventually, the setting up of a provisional government in exile.

POLICE INFECTIONS

In early July, an anonymous police source told the internet publication Confidencial that more than 540 police officers had caught COVID-19 (70% of them in Managua), and that mid-ranking officials “are expressing profound discontent” at the different treatment given to front-line police officers, inspectors and ordinary officers compared to high-ranking officers, with the former being sent home with medicines and the latter to the Police Hospital in Managua where they receive “all the necessary care.” The source named at least four commissioners (both active and retired) who had died as a result of the pandemic, although other sources quote a higher number.
.
COVID-19 CASES AND DEATHS
IN DIFFERENT PROFESSIONS

At the end of June, the Teachers’ Union Unity announced that 32 teachers had died from COVID-19 and a large number had caught the virus. On July 1, Health Minister Miriam Raudez appeared for the first time regarding the pandemic in an interview with a pro-government TV channel. She claimed that the regime
had been “very wise” not to have closed public schools at any time and that media questions about what teachers had died of demonstrated a “loss of sense of humanity and human misery.”
In relation to other professions, 58 journalists had been infected by the end of July and 2 had died. In the micro-finance sector, 274 employees had been infected as of mid-July, with 218 having recovered and no deaths reported, while 1,985 clients had caught the virus, of whom 1,163 had recovered and 124 had died. At the end of July, it was reported that 54 lawyers had died. Almost all professions have been presenting figures for infections and deaths from the coronavirus, which when added together cast further doubt on the already dubious official Health Ministry figures.

STRANDED AT THE BORDER

About 500 Nicaraguans who had lost their jobs in neighboring Costa Rica and decided to return home to their families have been held up at the border since July 18. The Ortega government sent anti-riot police to stop them, arguing that they must present a certificate demonstrating they have taken the COVID-19 test with negative results. The Nicaraguan Health Ministry, however, has no presence at the border to do the testing and almost none of those stranded there would have the money to pay for it anyway. They are living in crowded conditions on the tarmac with only one bathroom. Under the constant watch of the anti-riot police, they are hungry and thirsty and exposed to both the elements and infection by the virus. National and international human rights organizations have denounced this cruel and arbitrary treatment, calling on the government to let them into the country, but as of July 31 they had still not managed to cross over.

“EVIL EXISTS”

On July 17, after learning about the US government’s sanctions against her son Juan Carlos, Vice President Murillo stated the following during her customary midday monologue (an exact translation of the Spanish transcript, including capitalized words): “That is the Plan of the Spiritual Beings, to Always Go Beyond! We Human Beings, Spiritual Beings that know Good and achieve Good because the only way to advance culturally, spiritually and, of course, materially is by doing Good and achieving Good. Of course, Evil exists. I was one of those who believed Evil did not exist; I found it hard to understand that Evil exists, that it is here, but that Love is stronger than Hate and that we are Spiritual Beings who know how to identify the Force of Good and work with it.”

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