Ortega Uses Extortion against Independent Media

Director of the “100% Noticias” Channel denounces “illegal charges” from the Tax and Social Security Offices

The facilities of the “100% Noticias” channel remain closed and taken over by the Nicaraguan Police since December of 2018. Photo: EFE / Confidencial

Miguel Mora points out that his accounts were up to date before the media outlet was “stolen.” Now they fabricate back taxes, fees and fines to threaten him with jail.

By Ana Lucia Cruz (EFE- Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Journalist Miguel Mora, director of the “100% Noticias” channel is facing extortion from the Ortega government. He denounced through social networks what he called “fiscal terrorism” and “illegal” fees. Since July 2019, both the tax (DGI) and social security (INSS) offices have demanded absurd payments.  

Mora points out that notifications began a month after being released from Ortega’s prison in June 2019.  Immediately he began to receive demands for payment including fines and interest. The total reach almost eight million cordobas (Over US $230,000).

“In July we received the first charges. What are the charges? As for the DGI, they go back to 2007. The tax office claims there are back payments and to those they add fines and interest. First, they invent a figure, then they increase fines and they multiply the figure. When you look at the debt, it has already been tripled, or quadrupled,” he denounces.

Mora said the figure charged by the DGI for alleged back payments with fines and interest is 7,890,538.86 cordobas. The Social Security Institute also charges him the sum of 75,952.14 cordobas for quotas since December 2018.

Threatened with prison

The director of 100% Noticias explains that the media outlet was within the legal entity Primicias S.A. “An order of the dictatorship and a court decision at the request of the State closed it. Thus, once the company is dead, there should not be any type of charges because the company was stolen. It was confiscated by the State.”

The former political prisoner denounced the “illegal” charges to a company that was closed “by order of the dictatorship.” On top of that the regime seeks to “intimidate and repress with fiscal terrorism and threats” of jail.

“They argue payments which we cannot answer because we don’t have our accounting documents. The TV channel remains occupied along with all our paperwork. And now they   threaten a criminal legal process, including jail,” he denounced.

Mora explained that in recent months they visited the institutions that have issued the charges. He reminded them that the company was closed and occupied by order of the Ortega dictatorship.

“We will respond to their arguments with the documents inside the channel they stole. We showed that they have everything in their power. And that the station is closed and confiscated, something prohibited by the Nicaraguan Constitution,” said Mora.

The journalist also requested the Tax authorities “go with me to the Channel to see that there are police officers. They impede the exercise of freedom of private enterprise and freedom of expression. The company is in the hands of the State since December 2018, when they also illegally imprisoned us.”

Businesspeople demand end of intimidation

Several Nicaraguan business chambers warn about the fiscal persecution. They request the Ortega regime stop intimidation tactics against opponents and the private sector. These practices date since April 2018, when the anti-government protests began.

The business groups demanded an end to the “abusive” charges and fines from Managua City Hall. They note the municipal authorities, of Ortega’s FSLN party, do this in coordination with the Prosecutor and the Judiciary. They described the resulting actions as “fiscal terrorism.”

The executives highlighted the case of businesswoman Victoria Cardenas, wife of opposition member Juan Sebastian Chamorro. The case also involves his mother-in-law Victoria Lacayo, and his sister-in-law Gabriela Cardenas. Criminal Court Judge Imara Isabel Castro, issued an arrest and home-search warrant for the three women. The judge says they owe 9.5 million cordobas (around US $280,000) for supposedly undeclared total income between 2017 and 2019. This despite the fact they claim to have their municipal payments up to date.

AmCham warns of “uncertainty”

“The intimidating and arbitrary actions of authorities against the private sector and opposition activists represent a series of deliberate aggressions seeking to silence opinion and popular discontent,” said the American Chamber of Commerce of Nicaragua (AmCham) in a statement published on their social networks.

In addition, it condemns categorically actions “showing little interest in respecting the rule of law. This affects not only businesspeople and opponents, but the general population, creating uncertainty and mistrust.”

In the same terms, the Nicaraguan Chamber of Tourism (Canatur) stated its position. It also expressed its solidarity with the family of the opposition leader. They note there are other businesspeople affected by similar situations, although they didn’t mention names.

Canatur warned that actions like these “are one more blow to the legal security of investments. They do nothing but scare away the possibilities of economic recovery when we are facing a serious economic crisis.”

Coercive measures

Likewise, Canatur criticized Managua City Hall for “attacking businesspeople by implementing coercive measures. These in a clear attempt to intimidate, further damaging Nicaragua’s already weakened business climate.”

The Nicaraguan Development Institute (INDE) also expressed its “great concern over the recent complaints made by businesspeople.” They cited “the imposition of charges, back payments and exorbitant fines. While demanding that the authorities not promote “harmful conduct against companies.” The Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUNIDES) also chimed in. They criticized “onerous charges levied outside the procedures established by the law in Nicaragua.”

Meanwhile, the opposition Civic Alliance condemned the Managua City Hall’s “campaign of intimidation and fiscal terrorism against companies.”

The Alliance, an organization of which Chamorro is executive director, maintains “there have been numerous cases of businesspeople threatened with imprisonment if they don’t pay abusive fees and fines.”

Read here more of our reporting from Nicaragua