Ortega Axes Nine Critical Nicaraguan NGOs, More Expected Soon

The Nicaraguan National Assembly, totally controlled by Daniel Ortega, has begun to eliminate the legal status of civil society organizations, starting with nine of the most critical of the government.

HAVANA TIMES – The Nicaraguan Parliament, controlled by the ruling Sandinista Front leader Daniel Ortega, today withdrew the legal status of five more non-governmental organizations (NGOs) considered critical of the leader, raising the total to nine in recent days, reported dpa. 

Loira Dixon, first secretary of the Assembly, said that among the organizations eliminated as legal entities are the social development foundation Popol Na, created by the former Sandinista guerrilla and opposition activist Monica Baltodano, and the Communication Research Center (CINCO), directed by journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro.

Chamorro, son of President Violeta Barrios (1990-1997), is one of the journalists most critical of the Ortega government. CINCO has two television programs under its wing, a media observatory and the influential news portal “Confidencial.”  

The legislature also suspended, by absolute majority, the legal status of the Leadership Institute of Las Segovias (ILSS), led by the human rights defender Haydee Castillo;  the Institute for Democracy (IPADE) and the environmentalist Fundación del Río, confirmed Dixon.

According to the approved text, the five NGOs committed “illicit acts”, “violated public order” and acted “in activities that do not correspond to the purposes for which they were created.”

Under the same arguments, the Parliament on Wednesday canceled the legal status of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh), one of the most important humanitarian organizations in Central America, and Hagamos Democracia, whose director Luciano García was also accused of “financing terrorism.”

A few days ago, the legislature annulled the legal permit of the Center for Information and Health Advisory Services (CISAS), whose director, the feminist Ana Quirós, was stripped of her Nicaraguan nationality and deported to Costa Rica. Quiros had dual Nicaraguan-Costa Rican citizenship.

On its Twitter account, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) considered “alarming” that the legal status be canceled of “human rights organizations that played a fundamental role in the crisis facing #Nicaragua.”

“Freedom of association is an essential tool for the existence and functioning of a democratic society,” warned the IACHR, an autonomous entity of the Organization of American States (OAS).

Nonetheless, this right is non-existent in Cuba, which is the model apparently sought out by the Ortega regime, seeking even greater control over civil society. Ortega is also believed to favor the Cuban model for legal journalism, which on the Caribbean Island is a total monopoly. Thus, the stepped up harassment, threats and attacks on Nicaragua’s remaining independent media and its journalists, follow a logic.

The Institute of Strategic Studies and Public Policies (IEEPP), headed by the political scientist Felix Maradiaga, exiled in the United States after receiving threats, was also annulled.

The withdrawal of permits to NGOs occurs almost eight months after the outbreak of anti-government protests on April 18, which led to the worst crisis in the country in the last 40 years.

It also comes three days after the United States Congress unanimously approved the law known as the “Magnitsky Nica Act,” which, when signed by President Trump, will apply harsh sanctions on the Ortega government. These are expected to include the suspension of multilateral financing to the country. The legislation united the most liberal and conservative Democratic and Republican Party congresspeople, very rare in these polarized times.

The violent action of Ortega’s police and paramilitary forces against civilian protesters since April left at least 325 dead and over 3,000 injured, many seriously. There are currently some 600 political prisoners, some already tried and sentenced in a “circus court” atmosphere on fabricated charges and without proper legal defense, note national and international human rights organizations.

The Government accuses anyone who has participated in public protests of trying to “destabilize it through a terrorist plot financed by the United States.”

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