The annual report on the global human rights situation that the United States Department of State presented this Tuesday, March 30, included serious allegations to the Government of Nicaragua and accused President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, of maintain a “highly centralized and authoritarian” political system.
Antony Blinken, Secretary of State of the United States, presented the report that reveals the human rights situation of more than 200 countries and territories, as well as civil liberties, corruption, lack of transparency and the actions of governments in investigations of human rights abuses, among others.
The report details the situation in the Central American country and assures that in recent years President Daniel Ortega increased his control over the Nicaraguan judiciary, legislature, and justice, passing “increasingly repressive laws that severely limit the operating capacity of the political opposition groups, civil society and independent media ”.
According to the document, “widespread corruption reigns in Nicaragua, including in the police force, the CSE, the Supreme Court, the customs and tax authorities, and other government bodies. The municipal governments and regional governments of the Caribbean Coast were also affected by corruption, ”the text cites, as well as pointing out the existence of pro-government armed groups, in charge of repressing defenders, independent journalists and activists dissident to the Executive.
Arbitrary arrests of dissidents
“The para-policemen, who are non-uniformed groups, masked and armed with training and tactical organization, act in coordination with the Government’s security forces, under the direct control of the Government,” adds the text that indicates that the security forces are committing “Numerous abuses”. Washington affirms that “para-policemen and people linked to the Ortega regime carried out a campaign of harassment, intimidation and violence against perceived enemies of the regime, such as former political prisoners, peasant activists, pro-democracy opposition groups, human rights defenders and the Catholic clergy ”.
The text indicates that many of those detained in the context of the anti-government protests, which began in 2018, were presented to the public in prison uniforms, affecting the presumption of innocence established in local laws and many of them reported being victims of cruel treatment, torture and “life threatening” prison conditions.
One of the testimonies included in the report is the arrest, by members of the Nicaraguan Army on August 15, 2020, of opponents Hader González and Cristian Meneses on the border with Costa Rica. Their families did not receive information on their whereabouts until August 20, when the Army presented them publicly and linked them to a murder. Then a Managua judge sentenced them to 48 years imprisonment for various crimes to the detriment of Nicaragua, as he has done with other dissidents recognized as “political prisoners” by local defenders.
“Trials against pro-democracy protesters were unduly delayed and not in accordance with due process. The release of the accused was based in many cases on political decisions and not on the rule of law, “says the State Department, adding that” important human rights issues include: illegal or arbitrary executions, including extrajudicial executions, committed by the Government or its agents; enforced disappearances by parapolice forces; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by prison guards and para-police ”
The United States echoes the complaints of local human rights organizations, peasant groups and the media that make visible the murder of at least 30 opposition peasants between 2018 and 2019 and where, according to them, the Nicaraguan Army participated.
The military institution issued a statement on March 21, referring to these allegations and assured that it is a “malicious slander campaign” and that its members receive training on issues of human rights and international humanitarian law. “Our presence in the field is due to the security demand of our coffee producers, ranchers, merchants, farmers and other sectors, in this sense we will always be supporting them to prevent them from being affected by criminal elements”, they assure.
Drones and wiretapping
Dora María Téllez, a former Sandinista guerrilla and dissident, affirms that this report is “devastating” for the Sandinista government and shows that the forces of order are committed to the ruling family.
“The Army has been accused of providing arms, intelligence information and officials to the repression carried out by paramilitaries of the Ortega regime in the months of June, July and August 2018, where a huge number of young people were killed,” says Téllez and adds that “the sanction against the head of the Army (Julio Avilés) is exactly for having turned the armed forces into one more instrument of the Ortega family, distancing him from his constitutional role.”
The dissident assures that the Nicaraguan police have become a “political persecution force” and its main objective is “repression, siege, persecution and political espionage.” The report details that the national NGOs, members of the Catholic Church, journalists and opponents alleged that the Government monitors their telephone and email conversations.
Likewise, “the representatives of the Church also said that their sermons were monitored” and members of the opposition denounce the use of drones to spy on their activities, despite the fact that these are officially prohibited.
The Treasury Department of the United States Government has imposed sanctions on 27 Nicaraguan officials close to Daniel Ortega, including the head of the Army, Julio César Avilés, and several police officers, accused of participating in human rights violations.
A few days ago, a bill named the Law for Strengthening Nicaragua’s Adherence to the Conditions for Electoral Reform was presented in the United States Congress, promoted by Democrats and Republicans, whose objective is to exert greater pressure on the Nicaraguan Government to approve electoral reforms that allow “free and transparent” elections in November of this year.
The proposal targets “foreigners who directly or indirectly obstruct the establishment of the necessary conditions for the holding of free, fair and transparent elections in Nicaragua” and contemplates more sanctions against government officials, members of the Police, the Army. and the Electoral Council of Nicaragua, as well as restrictions on loans from international organizations.
The Nicaraguan government affirms that the 2018 social upheavals were a failed coup attempt and accuses civil society and opposition parties of inciting “violence and hatred.” Until now, organizations such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights count 326 deaths in the repression of these protests and the families of these victims are still seeking justice.