“Not even one has been fulfilled”
On November 16, the day Hurricane Iota slammed into Nicaragua,
Mónica Baltodano, representing the nation’s blue and white opposition,
shared views with the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights.
The following is her summary of the current political context,
delivered via a virtual platform.
Madam María Arena, president of the subcommi¬¬ttee on Human Rights, esteemed members of the
I would like to begin by thanking the European Parliament for its emphatic declarations and resolutions on Nicaragua. In particular, we thank the MEPs Javier Nart, Ramón Jáuregui, Miguel Urbán, José Ramón Bauzá and all those who have physically and morally stood up for our people.
In its resolutions, the European Parliament has emphasized 12 important recommendations. To save time, I won’t mention them. But I must say that not one of these recommendations has been fulfilled. Not a single one. Let’s take a look…
No disarmament process First. The freedom to think differently continues to be punished with prison. As of November 7, a total of 115 men and 3 women are prisoners of conscience, 10 of them since before 2018. A repressive “revolving door” practice continues to be identified: a dynamic in which the regime captures some and always releases fewer others. In this way it tries to inhibit oppo¬nents’ political participation and organization. Further¬more, they use terror to reinforce their narrative of “nor¬ma¬lity.”
Second. No legal status or possessions have been restored to the nongovernmental organizations from which they were confiscated; these NGOs are therefore still suffering delayed justice. Writs of unconstitutionality they filed with the Supreme Court of Justice two years ago have not obtained a ruling of any kind, thus impeding them from turning to international authorities.
Third. The government is still not permitting the return to Nicaragua of the international human rights organizations expelled from the country in 2018.
Fourth. There has been no demilitarization or disarmament of paramilitaries/shock forces, or any investigation into these groups, as was requested by the UN High Commission on Human Rights (UNHCHR), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the International Group of Independent Experts (GIEI). These parapolice groups are continuing to act in coordination with the National Police in the sieges, espionage and capture of opposition members and human rights activists.
No positive sign
Fifth. Those in exile have no guarantees for returning to their country. More than 100,000 Nicaraguans, including journalists, students and small farmers are political exiles, the majority of them living in impoverished conditions.
Sixth. With only 12 months before the programmed national elections, none of the indispensable changes needed to ensure free, transparent and observed elections has been made. The different political groups and civil society organizations presented a consensual proposal for electoral reforms, but all signs from the government are negative. It is trying to use acts of intimidation and force to stop grassroots organization.
Attempting to meet, even indoors, has become a risky operation. The police impede opponents from traveling outside the city or even leaving their own home, sending patrol cars to cruise their houses. They surround or bust into locales where assemblies are programmed. Parapolice groups intimidate and assault participants. If people succeed in meeting, they find their tires slashed upon leaving. And rocks have even been thrown at them, with police complacency.
Seventh. Freedom of press and information is a fiction. Ortega controls 8 of the 11 television channels open, and the locales of Confidencial and 100% Noticias have been under police control since December 2018.
Eighth. Academic freedom is still denied in the public universities. None of the 150 students expelled from the universities for thinking differently have been reincorporated. The firing of critical professors is continuing and the public universities are still functioning under the logic of sectarian partisan subordination.
mobilizations are allowed
Ninth. All mobilizations or acts of protest are prohibited. Women could not even celebrate International Women’s Day, and the citizenry has not been able to demonstrate to demand respect for any social or political right. A feminist picket line condemning the rape and murder of two young girls triggered a brutal deployment of anti-riot police. Only governing party supporters can mobilize freely.
Tenth. Dialogue? There is no such thing. The government has not yet complied with the agreements signed with the Civic Alliance in March 2019.
Eleventh. The cases of the 328 people murdered (24 of them children and adolescents and 21 of them police officers) have still not been investigated, according to the IACHR / GIEI / MESENI (Follow-up Mechanism on Nicaragua). And impunity reigns regarding the grave human rights violations committed since April 18, 2018.
Twelfth. In the middle of the de facto state of siege, filing charges or simply publishing journalistic investigations on the social networks are considered criminal acts.
Three laws that violate rights
Turning a deaf ear to the national clamor and international recommendations, such as those of the European Parliament in its September 20 Resolution, the dictatorship approved three laws in recent weeks that violate constitutional rights and universal human rights.
On October 15 it passed the “Law to Regulate Foreign Agents,” a new instrument to criminalize, asphyxiate and terrorize any expression of opposition in the country.
On October 27, the “Special Cybercrimes Law,” popularly dubbed the “Muzzle Law,” was approved to restrict freedom of expression, establishing sentences from two to eight years in prison for what it considers fake or offensive news or for the dissemination of confidential information from the state institutions.
And on November 10 it approved in the first of two required legislatures the reform of Article 37 of the Constitution to establish life sentences for persons convicted of serious crimes, when a number of circumstances combine, that are considered to be cruel, degrading or hate-driven in the judgment of the authorities.
We are united by liberty
Esteemed members of the European Parliament: you will ask what the regime is pursuing with so much repression. We respond that Ortega and Murillo have only one purpose: to perpetuate themselves in power at any price so as to defend their businesses and privileges.
With a populist discourse, the country is now more than ever living at the mercy of transnationals’ interests, extractivism, the depredation of Nature, violent plundering of the indigenous peoples’ lands and forests. Women are now more than ever the victims of rapes and femicides. Nicaragua has the highest rate of child and teenage pregnancies in Latin America.
Those of us who have been waging the struggle of peaceful and civic resistance in Nicaragua want to emphasize that the international human rights bodies must be allowed to return to the country immediately, so their presence can help reduce the asphyxiating situation in which we are living.
Freedom and human rights cannot be crushed under the argument of national sovereignty. The deterioration of human rights is palpable not only in Nicaragua but in all of Central America. We thus want to propose to you a European Union evaluation of the status of human rights in the entire Central American region in the framework of the Central American Association Agreement and take the measures the agreement itself establishes to require its fulfillment.
Friends, we who have been struggling since our adolescence for liberty, and who faced up to one dictatorship with weapons in hand, truly want that painful road closed forever. The unity of Nicaraguans, in a convergence of feminists; ecologists; leftwing, Liberal, Conservative, Social Christian, and anti-Ortega Sandinista activists; people of diverse religious beliefs; rural men and women; and indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples is the civic path to achieving liberty and democracy.
Nicaragua’s path is the unity of all of society in its plurality against a dictatorship, where there is no place for polarizing Cold-War readings. For that reason, we celebrate that the European Parliament is supporting the people of Nicaragua from a position of plurality as well.
No human institution, no human condition can be acceptable if it implies the loss of liberty. Without liberty, as we Nicaraguans are currently living today, all other rights are denied, cut short and subjected to the whim of the Ortega-Murillo tyranny. Our denunciation is thus part of our people’s struggle for freedom.
Thank you very much.
Mónica Baltodano is the president of the Popol Na Foundation for municipal promotion and development and a member of the Articulation of Social Movements, which is part of the Blue and White Unity.