Daniel Ortega Confiscates Pensions from “Stateless” Retirees

Photo: Carlos Herrera / Confidencial

Bank accounts at zero. Some were told: “You are no longer in the system,” or “I can’t pay you because of orders from the INSS president.”

By Ivan Olivares (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – The government of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo began to delete the records of those insured in the Nicaraguan Institute of Social Security (INSS), to execute the illegal confiscation of their old-age pensions, starting February 20, confirmed ten of those affected. They were stripped of their nationality on February 9 and 15.

A source linked to social security explained that internally, the executive president of INSS, Roberto Lopez, ordered the execution of the measure, after analyzing the alleged legal grounds they could use, as a result of the declaration of “stateless persons,” and once that was defined, “it was decided that they were going to be deprived” of their pensions.

The banishment of 222 former political prisoners took place on February 9. Then 94 other Nicaraguan citizens were declared as “stateless” and fugitives from justice on February 15. In addition came the unconstitutional decision to confiscate their assets and remove them from any public registry.

The first blow was the freezing at the Property Registry of the properties of those affected. This disabled the possibility of carrying out transactions, as a previous measure to the outright confiscation. The second swipe was executed on the dates on which the pension payments of the retirees are usually deposited, between February 19 and 21.

Four of them —the former Minister of Education, Humberto Belli; the former member of the Government Junta of National Reconstruction, Moises Hassan; the former director of FSLN foreign relations, Julio Lopez Campos, and his wife, the former guerrilla commander Monica Baltodano— confirmed to Confidencial that this month they could no longer access their payments.

The decision was considered “abhorrent, wicked, inhumane,” by lawyer and human rights defender, Gonzalo Carrion, whose name was included in the group of the 94, while Humberto Belli called it “a theft,” and Lopez Campos labels it a “depravity, cruelty and contempt for human rights.”

Erased from the system

The testimony of minister Belli affirms that he has been a pensioner since the first decade of the current century and that, upon leaving the country in June 2021, he left a signed notary certificate for someone he trusted to cash his checks in Leon, but when he tried to do so in February, the person received the answer that “Mr. Belli is not in the system.”

“The sentence that declares us traitors to the homeland and takes away our citizenship, orders our real property to be frozen, but not an income that belongs to us by law, such as the pension, which is not a handout, but a right that we earned after paying in for many years. The only thing the INSS is doing is giving us back our money,” Belli said.

“They are stealing it, because this type of sanction is not provided for in any law, nor in the Constitution,” he added advancing that, given that he has Italian nationality, he contacted the embassy of that country to ask for their support in this problem, in addition to looking for a lawyer to explore legal options in the country.

“They want to decree our ‘civil death,’ but we exist, and we have inalienable rights, which no state can snatch from us,” he added.

A retiree who tried to collect her pension, as she does every month through a legal representative, related that the person was told that “the pension could no longer be paid to me by orders of the executive president of INSS, Roberto Lopez.”

There are no precedents

Julio Lopez Campos also received his pension payments in a bank account, but after the regime announced that it was taking away his nationality, “they have not deposit anything, neither in my account, nor in Monica’s,” (Baltodano), who is also part of the list of the 94.

“This action of the dictatorship is added to a series of political and judicial monstrosities that alarm the international community, such as the stripping of nationality, the confiscation of our assets, and now that of our pensions, with which they round off a set of atrocities that has no precedent in Latin America, nor the world,” he stated.

Looking at it from a legal point of view, he recalled that this type of rights were considered “inviolable, untouchable. It was considered that it was beyond that red line you could not cross,” but doing so is something that “has alarmed the decent people of the planet.”

In Colombia, for example, a ruling of the Constitutional Court established the “inviolability of pensions,” under the premise that “pension constitutes a deferred salary of the worker, the result of compulsory savings made during a lifetime of work.”

In other words, the payment of a pension is not a gift from the nation or the employer, but a simple reimbursement of the constant savings of long years, which is due to the worker. The non-repayment of this coercive and lifelong saving called “pension” is equivalent, no more and no less in this case, to a confiscation of very special characteristics. The confiscated good has no relation whatsoever with the alleged crime of which the pensioner is accused, and the deprivation thereof is made without the  intervention of any judicial officer, and without the possibility of the affected party to exercise the right to defense that should assist then to defend their patrimony.”

Constitutional protection

The former member of the first Junta of the National Reconstruction Government (after the fall of Somoza in 1979), Moises Hassan, also had a similar displeasure when he tried and was unable to access the bank account that he opened with INSS to deposit his payments, under his name, more than a decade ago. Hassan reported that the bank’s webpage only tells him that the account is blocked and recommends that he contacts the bank services staff.

This is not the first time he has lost the money he had saved in a bank, being that “recently, I was blocked without any explanation, the access to another account I had in another commercial bank.” Although he lost the funds he still had deposited in that account, he says that it was not much, because he had transferred them shortly before, so he was able to keep most of his personal savings.

Article 61 of the Nicaraguan Constitution states that “the State guarantees Nicaraguans the right to social security for their comprehensive protection against the social contingencies of life and work, in the manner and under the conditions determined by law.”

Article 82, subsection 7, determines that “workers have the right to…social security for comprehensive protection and means of subsistence in cases of disability, old age, occupational hazards, illnesses and maternity…”

Similarly, Article 105 states that “education, health and social security services are undeniable duties of the State, which is obliged to provide them without exclusion, to improve and expand them…”

Resort to international justice

Just as Belli acknowledged that they are seeking legal advice, Lopez Campos said that he should also do the same, but reflects that the “unprecedented” nature of the regime’s measure makes it difficult to analyze the legal options. “No matter what one does, no one has access to the legal channel in Nicaragua, because all legal avenues are closed,” he asserted.

Lawyer Carrion recalls that “social security is part of what is called ‘an acquired right’ and it accumulates over time, based on the contributions made by each insured person. Just as there is no right for anyone to be stripped of their nationality, there is no right to be excluded from social security. There is no legal framework that can justify this because it implies stripping you of your human and constitutional rights,” he remarked.

Since the stripping of pensions is a violation of a right, those affected can sue the Nicaraguan State before the international courts —in this case, the Central American Court of Justice (CCJ), and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)— with the provison that the system itself requires them to do so only after having exhausted national remedies.

Jhoswell Martinez, president of the Intercultural Association of Human Rights (ASIDEHU), rules out the CCJ route which he considers “totally dysfunctional,” with the aggravating factor that, having its’ headquarters in Managua, makes it possible that the dictatorship will act against them —recalling that there is already the precedent of the seizure of the OAS building-, “to prevent them from hearing the case.”

“It is known that in order to resort to international justice, one must exhaust national procedures and remedies, but in Nicaragua this is not possible. Since the IACHR understands that in the case of Nicaragua that is not possible, because it is the State itself that violates the rights of citizens and does not even allow the filing of a complaint in its system, it considers omitting the national part of the process and receives the complaints directly,” he explained.

The other six sources —which include human rights defenders, professionals, opposition politicians, etc., included in the list of the 222 or of the 94— confirmed that they also did not have access to their bank account into which their pensions were deposited, but asked to keep their names confidential, fearing that the regime would seek revenge against their relatives that are still living in Nicaragua.

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