The regime illegally raided them, arbitrarily canceled their legal status, assaulted them and illicitly confiscated their assets and offices; however, none of the Ortega abuses had stopped the work of nine Nicaraguan NGOs, which since December of 2018 have resisted the onslaught of the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.
Between December 11 and 13, 2018, the Ortega steamroller canceled the legal status of the Institute for Strategic Studies and Public Policies (IEEPP); the “Hagamos Democracia” (Let’s Make Democracy) organization: the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH); Rio Foundation, the Institute for Development and Democracy (IPADE); the Communication Research Center (CINCO); the Popol Na Foundation; and the Leadership Institute of Las Segovias.
Days before, on November 29, it had done the same with the Center for Health Information and Consulting Services (CISAS), whose director Ana Quiros, was expelled to Costa Rica, because she had dual Nicaraguan-Costa Rican citizenship.
The NGOs have remained active in the country, some with a low profile and others with more media actions, such as CENIDH. Four directors of the same number of NGOs told Confidencial and the “Esta Noche” (TV program) that they remain in operation and that they will continue in the “struggle.”
The regime’s discomfort
“The (lack) of legal status has not taken away the right to exist and to continue working. We were and remain committed to the people’s struggle for democracy, justice and the freedom of political prisoners. All of that upsets the regime and that is why it attacked these organizations,” former Sandinista guerrilla Monica Baltodano, president of the Popol Na Foundation told the Esta Noche program.
For sociologist Sofia Montenegro, executive director of CINCO, these nine NGOs represented the most belligerent sector of civil society, since they bring together bodies that oversee human rights, elections, municipalities and the media.
“There are other organizations that do their job, but they don’t have the expertise to overseeing power,” the sociologist added, on the “Esta Noche” program.
Police and paramilitary assault
Luciano García, executive president of Hagamos Democracia, acknowledged that this first year has not been “easy,” since the political crisis “has led us to work under poor security conditions and under Police harassment.”
Hagamos Democracia, Cinco and Cisas are the only NGOs to whom the regime only cancelled their legal status. The dictatorship police assaulted without a warrant, the head offices of the Popol Na Foundation on the night of December 13, 2018; IPADE; CENIDH; IEEPP; Rio Foundation and the Leadership Institute in Las Segovias.
“Before, you were going to see men and women, young people and children learning, dancing, playing in those corridors, strengthening their values, their identity, taking care of the environment and promoting their empowerment. Today what they tell us is that [at their occupied facilities] you only see paramilitaries with their weapons and hung clothes (to dry),” said Haydee Castillo, president of the Leadership Institute of Las Segovias.
“It is like a photograph of what the dictatorship is. Where before citizens’ values were strengthened, today there are weapons, paramilitaries and violence. Thus, they are deconstructing the culture of rights, for another of violence and terror,” she added. This organization is based in the indigenous town of Mozonte, municipality of Nueva Segovia.
Ortega’s deputies and their allies cancelled the legal status with the argument, without evidence, that the NGOs financed an alleged “coup d’état” against the dictatorship. The Law against terrorism and money laundering was applied to them.
“I know that they call us terrorists because, as it is said in popular language: ‘He who does it, imagines it.’ The people know that we are defenders of human rights not because anyone told them that, but because they have lived it with us. While the regime, no matter how much they want to dress up as peaceful, Christian and in solidarity; are state terrorists, everyone knows that,” said Castillo.
Sofia Montenegro said that “the argument of the coup d’état has not been bought by anyone, neither the population, nor the donors,” although she admitted that the regime’s accusation has made operating more difficult because it places financial and banking obstacles.
“This is also an indirect way to repress, via financial and economic suffocation, and persecution with the tax issue,” the sociologist stressed.
No response from the Court
All the NGOs filled last December and early this year appeals for legal protection and unconstitutionality against the National Assembly, the regime’s police and the Ministry of the Interior. However, they have not received any response from the Supreme Court.
Monica Baltodano explained that in the case of the appeals, they were admitted by the Court of Appeals of Managua and sent to the CSJ; those of unconstitutionality were processed directly in the Court.
“On (last) April 2, the Supreme Court of Justice notified us of the admission of the appeal (of unconstitutionality). From that moment to date, we continue waiting for the resolution of the appeals, without any progress been notified to us,” Garcia said. By law, the CSJ has up to 45 days to issue a ruling; a period of time that has already six-fold.
Baltodano emphasized that they have done everything legally possible, and have resorted to international bodies such as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). “The nine NGOs were in Geneva and presented a report to the High Commissioner.”
Haydee Castillo assured that the NGOs have resorted to the Inter-American system and universal human rights system, and that they “will continue until we recover our right to defend rights.”