with the Ortega regime’s abuses
President of the Central American Council of Human Rights Attorneys and Advocates calls on her Nicaraguan colleagues to respond to the regime’s repression.
By Cindy Regidor (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – Catalina Crespo Sancho is the president of the Central American Council of Human Rights Attorneys and Advocates, and also Ombudsperson for Costa Rica. She recently urged the Nicaraguan government’s Office for Human Rights Defense (Procuraduria de Derechos Humanos de Nicaragua) “to act in favor of the people, and not be complicit with the government’s repressive actions against the population.”
In an official statement issued by the Costa Rican Human Rights office on August 13, Crespo called on her Nicaraguan counterparts to fight for the rights of “those who are suffering from the repression of police, soldiers, and militant mobs.”
The human rights advocate requested “that the Nicaraguan government’s Office for HR Defense immediate apply their good offices in favor of all those whose rights and liberties have suffered at the hands of government forces, following their free exercise of political freedoms in demonstrating against the regime of President Ortega.”
Crespo was referring to the state repression of the Nicaraguan population that began in April 2018, as a response to massive protests against the government of Daniel Ortega. This repression has escalated enormously in the past months, in the lead-up to the Nicaraguan presidential elections scheduled for November.
In 2018, there were at least 328 deaths, thousands of wounded, dozens of serious human rights violations, tens of thousands of exiles, and hundreds of political prisoners. Over 150 of these prisoners remain in jail. Since then, the Ortega regime has installed a de facto police state, terminating all civil freedoms. They have closed, censored and confiscated three of the country’s largest opposition media outlets: 100% Noticias, Confidencial, and, as of August 13, La Prensa, the nation’s oldest newspaper.
Repression has been escalating since May of this year, when the regime began arresting presidential candidates, business leaders, journalists, opposition leaders, human rights advocates and former Nicaraguan diplomats. There are now a total of 33 new prisoners of conscience. Most are being accused of “treason” or of “realizing actions that undermine sovereignty”, under Law 1055, the Sovereignty Law.
Late in 2020, this law -along with a number of other similar ones-, was quickly approved by Nicaragua’s National Assembly, where a majority of the legislators are allied with the Ortega regime. At the time, human rights organizations and the international community described the package of laws as repressive instruments designed to silence and criminalize any expressions of discontent with the governing party.
Crespo was elected president of the Central American Council of Human Rights Attorneys and Advocates in January of this year. The Council is comprised of the government-sponsored human rights institutions of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama and Belize. Its aim is to promote joint actions for the promotion and protection of human rights in Central America.
In the press statement released on Friday, Crespo, as Council president, demanded that the Nicaraguan office align itself with the protective parameters of human rights, “safeguarding the rights and interests of the individuals and political parties that today are suffering repressive, inhumane and antidemocratic practices at the hands of the Nicaraguan state.”
Nicaraguan Human Rights Office remains loyal to the regime
In Nicaragua all the state institutions and government branches are controlled by the Ortega-Murillo regime. As a result, the Office for Human Rights Defense there is directed by Darling Rios Munguia, a former Sandinista Youth leader who is committed to defending the government’s interests.
The Nicaraguan Office for Human Rights Defense has adopted the official discourse that insists that the government was the victim of a coup d’etat attempt in 2018, and that the demonstrators were terrorists. This office has never issued a statement or investigated the crimes committed by the government, crimes that international human rights organizations have classified as crimes against humanity.
Conversely, the Nicaraguan government entity was quick to transmit a denunciation from Sandinista supporters brought on August 3 against Berenice Quezada, vice presidential candidate for the Citizens for Liberty Party. Those filing the denunciation asked for Quezada’s candidacy to be disallowed, for allegedly defending the crime of terrorism.
The denunciation referred to the fact that the previous day, when formally registering her candidacy for the November elections, Quezada noted the lack of electoral conditions and called on the citizens to come out and vote massively. “Like we did in 2018, like we did in April [of that year], we must demonstrate on November 7 that Nicaragua doesn’t want them [Ortega and Murillo] in the country,” Quezada said. She was referring to the large demonstrations of that time, demanding that Nicaragua’s presidential couple leave power.
Following the denunciation, Quezada was disqualified as a candidate and she was placed under house arrest. Meanwhile, the Citizens for Liberty Party was stripped of their legal status. The party’s president, Kitty Monterrey, had her Nicaraguan citizenry cancelled, and today is in exile in Costa Rica.
Actions recall the repression of thirty+ years ago
Crespo added that the current actions in Nicaragua recall the institutional repression that was common over 30 years ago. “Recalling the military, police and judicial agents, the repression and perpetrators of those times, when dictatorships and not democracies made up the Central American political landscape.”
The Central American Council president also denounced the detention of opposition political leaders and dissidents as “a flagrant violation of the Nicaraguan people’s human rights.” She sent an official letter to the authorities of the Nicaraguan Human Rights office urging them to intervene immediately “in the defense of your fellow citizens.”