HAVANA TIMES – The Nicaraguan Parliament, dominated by the Ortega family governing party, approved two laws on Monday to criminalize the ongoing protests now reaching three months, reported dpa news.
The so-called “Law against money laundering, financing of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction” had the vote of 70 of the 91 deputies of the one chamber Congress, dominated by the ruling Sandinista Front.
The law punishes with 15 to 20 years in prison anyone who causes death or injury to persons who do not participate in an armed conflict, destroys public or private property, as well as anyone who “collects, captures, channels or deposits or transfers assets (…) with the intention that they be used to commit terrorism” and other crimes.
The initiative was approved in the middle of a serious political crisis that began with protests in mid-April and that has left at least 350 dead and more than 2,000 injured according to non-governmental human rights organizations. Ortega and his top officials have accused those participating in the protests of being “coup supporters”, “criminals” and “terrorists.”
The Parliament also approved the “Financial Analysis Unit Law” (to be enforced by a division within the National Police), which extends the powers of that office to investigate or intervene the assets of any business and persons suspected of being linked to acts of money laundering or financing terrorism.
The loyal opposition Liberal Party legislators opposed the initiative, which had been presented last April, on the grounds that it violates bank secrecy and could be used to affect businesspeople and political opponents of the Ortega government.
In its explanatory statement, the FSLN bench defended the law stating that the State must comply with international commitments in terms of supervision and prevention of money laundering.
By means of both laws, the Government will now have the instruments to “legally” sentence people who it accuses to be linked to terrorism, like those in the ongoing protest against Ortega, as well as notify the Financial Unit about the people involved in criminal activities. In turn, banks may immobilize funds from individual accounts or from companies suspected of money laundering and terrorism, a lawmaker explained.
Nicaragua is experiencing its worst crisis in 40 years, which began with a student protest on April 18th and spread throughout the country after the violent police reaction.
In her daily speech broadcast on radio, Vice president and first lady, Rosario Murillo, accused the opponents of Ortega of having “diabolic and satanic plans”, and said that those who oppose their government are “a bunch of people who sow war and hatred.”
“They are a minority full of hate, sinister, evil,” said Murillo in statements to the official media. “They take diabolic and satanic rites from the media, encouraged by voices that are supposed to accompany the people in practices of peace and good,” she added, in apparent reference to the Catholic Church.
“We are moving towards the liberation of all our territory from the coup plan that they wanted to impose with an infamous and false national and international media campaign,” she warned.
On Monday morning unknown people set fire to the offices of the Catholic Church’s humanitarian agency Caritas, in the city of Sebaco, in the north of the country, reported Bishop Rolando Alvarez, from the department of Matagalpa.
The Caritas attack occurs after threats were heard on social networks and in official media against priests and bishops of the country who have supported the protests against the government.
“We call for reflection and the cessation of violence; we must not continue to destroy ourselves,” said the president of the Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, speaking on Monday to channel 12 television.
Meanwhile, the NGO Permanent Commission of Human Rights (CPDH) filed a writ of habeas corpus in favor of the peasant leaders Medardo Mairena and Pedro Mena, arrested last Friday and who, according to the police, will be accused of terrorism. Relatives of the detainees said they did not know their whereabouts.
Francisca Ramírez, also a rural leader, demanded in a video the release of Mairena y Mena, and called Ortega y Murillo “criminals and murderers.” “We will continue with our peaceful and civic street protests until they leave,” said Ramírez.
In Managua, several hundred students held an announced march on Monday from the headquarters of the Central American University (UCA) to the infamous El Chipote prison, to demand the release of protesters, mainly young people, abducted by paramilitary forces and the Police.