Sanctions imposed by the US shine a spotlight on this figure from Ortega’s inner circle
Nestor Moncada: Guardian of Secrets for the Ortega Family
He doesn’t have an official job with the regime, but he’s Ortega’s private secretary and his link to the Police and the paramilitary groups.
Nestor Moncada Lau, known as Chema, is the guardian who watches over the FSLN General Secretary, Daniel Ortega. This lawyer and experienced former official of the Ministry of the Interior’s State Security has strong ties of loyalty to Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo.
In November of 1980, Moncada Lau participated in the operation in which businessman Jorge Salazar Arguello was killed. Salazar was president of the Nicaraguan Union of Agricultural Producers and vice president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (Cosep).
The investigative report “The rings of power and Ortega’s operatives” published in Spanish by Confidencial in 2017, tells how Moncada Lau infiltrated the conspiracy headed by Salazar, then made an appointment to meet the businessman at the former Esso station in El Crucero to receive a packet of weapons. At that meeting, a Ministry of the Interior patrol appeared and opened fire, killing Salazar.
Moncada Lau was detained and processed as part of the plan to publicly denounce the extent of the conspiracy. The former official was then sent to Cuba for a “cooling off” period; while there, he received training in intelligence and counter-intelligence.
Moncada Lau returned to Nicaragua two years later, first as a military intelligence official for the army. He was later assigned to the Economic Division of the National Police and finally to the Department of Public Security. In 1992 he retired with the rank of subcomandante, roughly equivalent to major.
Once retired from military life, Moncada Lau became linked to Comandante Ortega’s inner circle within the FSLN Secretariat. By the mid-nineties, he was on the list of suspects the National Police were investigating to clear up a wave of twelve terrorist attempts that had shaken the Catholic churches without producing any human victims. And on January 10, 1997, hours before the inauguration of Arnoldo Aleman, he was detained by the National Police while transporting four packs of dynamite. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail for terrorism, but Judge Sergio Palacios gave him probation “considering his good conduct record in past years”.
Elevated in importance with Ortega’s return to power
With Ortega’s return to power in 2007, the former official assumed a prominent role as the president’s liaison with Aminta Granera, then head of the National Police. All of Ortega’s orders to Granera or to Ana Isabel Morales, the Minister of Governance, were channeled through Moncada Lau who thus acquired decisive influence in the political redesign of the National Police: the selection of the officers to be retired and the promotion of others loyal to the FSLN General Secretary.
His radius of action as a power broker extended to the Ministry of Governance, the office of Immigration and Foreign Affairs, the Customs Office and the Office of Revenue.
In April, 2011, an investigation conducted by the National Police regarding irregularities in the Department of Revenue brought about the removal of its head, Walter Porras; the fallout from this also facilitated the fall of Colonel Lenin Cerna from his position as Organizational Secretary for the FSLN.
With Cerna separated from his functions and the weakening of his particular network of operatives, Moncada Lau became the one and only political authority in the FSLN Secretariat. He doesn’t hold an official post, nor does he appear in the Government organizational charts, but no one disputes his ascendance to power as the guardian of the presidential family’s private affairs. He’s Ortega’s private secretary, his liaison with the Police, the paramilitary groups, and the intelligence activities.
Moncada Lau was sanctioned together with vice president and first lady Rosario Murillo for “rampant corruption, dismantling of democratic institutions, serious human rights abuse, and exploitation of the people and public resources of Nicaragua for private gain,” according to a press release from the Treasury Department.
In the particular case of Moncada Lau, the Treasury Department indicated that he was designated “for acting for or on behalf of Vice President Murillo… In addition, Moncada is an experienced former official of the State Security of the Ministry of Interior, with strong ties of loyalty to Ortega and Murillo.”
“Moncada disbursed payments to counter protesters on behalf of Ortega and Murillo and, through his various intelligence roles, worked to bribe and blackmail individuals to obtain their support or prevent them from voicing opposition to Ortega’s government. In addition, Moncada has engaged in acts of corruption on behalf of Ortega and Murillo. In at least one case, Moncada worked with President Ortega to cover up Ortega’s sexual conduct with a minor,” the Treasury press release adds.