By Ivan Olivares (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – Agents of Daniel Ortega’s regime invaded the facilities of nine NGOs on July 8th. The organizations were recently stripped of their legal status by the National Assembly. The confiscations affected: ANIA, Ciudad Sandino’s CEPS, Puntos de Encuentro, La Corriente, Operacion Sonrisa, Cantera and Centro Humboldt, as confirmed by Confidencial.
Two more (which asked not to be identified) were closed last week, said Maria Teresa Blandon, ex-president of the Feminist La Corriente Program, in what she and a former Humbolt Center official described as an “announced invasion.”
Since November 2018, the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and his wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo, have annulled the legal status of 870 civil society organizations, intensifying their totalitarian effort, most of them in the last 13 months. The most recent assault included the expulsion of the Sisters of Charity and now the new illegal confiscation of properties.
A former Humbolt Center official who spoke with Confidencial, on condition of anonymity, said that they were able to retrieve as much as they could, after their legal status was taken away in March. “Few things remained there. This was predictable. We were already waiting for it, and there is nothing more to do,” he reiterated, giving everything for lost.
In a statement, Operacion Sonrisa recalled that its closing occurred on March 23, after almost 30 years of helping citizens affected by cleft lips and palate, which included “more than 11,000 free surgical procedures…and more than 128,700 health services,” fund raising and investing in the process more than five million dollars, promising to remain “always available to return to work with the same love.”
Messages for the invaders
The raid on the facilities where La Corriente operated did not take anyone by surprise, since on May 4 their legal status was annulled, along with more than a hundred other NGOs. “We were placed in the middle of a bunch of organizations. That shows that they [the government] are very alone,” said its former president, lawyer Blandon.
Blandon stated that when their legal status was taken away, they decided to open their library to give away their books, and it was then when the young people present “came up with the idea of leaving graffiti on the walls. It was a kind of sit-in, a moment to express everything that had been accumulating all these years. It is the synthesis of their indignation, of their rebelliousness. The demand for freedom, justice and democracy is irreversible,” she said.
The decision of the fourth of May had been “plotted” for quite some time. The leadership of La Corriente saw that several organizations that it considered to be “friendly” had tried to register as “foreign agents,” but “the Ministry of the Interior was not receiving reports from anyone, so it was clear that they were creating the conditions to blame us for not complying with the laws, and annul our legal status,” she recounted.
The decision of the board of directors of the feminist organization was not to try and register as foreign agents, because “it is to give legitimacy to an illegal law. We declared zero in the Office of Revenues and in Social Security, because we did not have the resources to continue operating. We went ahead of the process, before they took our legal status away, but we continued working in La Corriente, because we were not going to close it,” she clarified.
Her opinion is that the regime is acting against its own laws, because the law says that to annul a legal status, the statutes of each NGO must be complied with, and those of La Corriente state that “in the case of dissolution, the assets must be handed over to a group with which we share objectives, and what we share with the State are antagonistic interests,” so that “this violates the provisions of their own laws,” she reiterated.
“We have no place where we can seek justice, appeal against these decisions devoid of legality and that violate the right of association. There is no independent Judiciary where to lodge appeals for unconstitutionality. We are in a state of complete defenselessness. They declare us in civic death. We do not exist for the State,” Blandon explained.
“What follows is to see how civil society organizations, even in the midst of a very adverse situation, can resist to defend our right to defend rights, and how to give continuity to the work we have been carrying out, despite the repression and the persecution… guaranteeing the safety of our people and collectives with which we work,” she noted.