Prohibition of march closes the political space and delivers a blow to the Constitution
Ortega Imposes a “Police State” in Nicaragua
Police “do not authorize, and will not authorize” public demonstrations, alleging that those involved are “coup mongers and have no legal status”
The police ban to prevent the march organized by feminist movements and the Blue and White National Unity on Sunday, November 25th, when the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is commemorated, reaffirms the “police state” imposed by the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo since the month of September, when it made protests illegal in the middle of the civic rebellion.
The police made clear on Friday that they will not “authorize” any public demonstrations [except those called to support Ortega], responding in this way to the request of the Blue and White National Unity coalition, which notified the institution about the march planned for Sunday. The organizers did not expect any Police approval, since the Constitution does not establish a requirement of a prior permit for citizens’ mobilizations.
Paulo Abrao, Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), said that the police decision “limits” the “essential content of human rights.” “Before they established unnecessary requirements for the right to protest and now they prohibit them all together. If there is no judicial control, an effective police state has been installed,” he warned. Abrao’s message was seconded by the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro.
Ana Maria Tello, coordinator of the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI), said that the police decision not only violates human rights, but that it is a clear “impediment” to peaceful protest, as they have been documenting.
“We were waiting for the authorization of the march. It did not happen. We are very worried. This is a march that, she pointed out, is not only Nicaraguan: it commemorates an international day of the United Nations to eliminate violence against women,” regretted Tello.
“They have no legal status”
The police alleged, in order not to authorize the march, that the organizers lack legal status, and have participated “in the failed coup d’état.”
“The National Police does not authorize and will not authorize public mobilizations of people, associations or movements that participated and are being investigated for their actions in the failed attempt at a coup d’état that has left an aftermath of trauma, mourning, and pain to Nicaraguan families,” stated the General Commissioner Luis Fernando Barrantes, chief of public security.
Constitutional lawyer Gabriel Alvarez categorized the entire police statement as illegal. The jurist objected to the argument of legal status, one of the most unsustainable according to his judgement.
“It is illegal because the Political Constitution does not say that a legal status is needed in order to demonstrate peacefully. It’s an argument pulled out of thin air, a clumsy manipulation of the law. Just the argument alone violates constitutional rights,” explained Alvarez.
The attorney explained that the letter of the Blue and White National Unity did requet authorization to march, but just notified the institution about carrying out a mobilization.
“The letter from the Blue and White Unity makes explicit reference to the portion of the Law which refers to the performance of the police. It establishes that they must grant permits,” explained the jurist. “You do not have to be a lawyer to know that legal norms can say things in an explicit or implicit manner, but unequivocally. The Unity coalition asked the police to do what was conducive, and what is conducive is to grant permission,” added the expert.
In the same vein, Carlos Tunnermann, a member of the Blue and White National Unity, emphasized that what was sent was a “simple notification of the march,” not a request for authorization. “They did not read the letter well, which clearly refers to the functions of the police to grant permission,” he said.
Accusations of serious crimes and libel
The Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy (which is part of the Blue and White National Unity) categorized the police arguments as “false, threatening and arbitrary.”
Commissioner Barrantes Jimenez said that among the five signatories of the notification of the march of the Blue and White National Unity and feminists’ groups they “identified” people who “carried out vandalism in shopping malls.”
The notification of the Blue and White National Unity is signed by businessman Jose Dolores Blandino, radio entrepreneur Fabio Gadea Mantilla, the feminist Evelyn Flores, the TV commentator Jaime Arellano and the economist Juan Sebastian Chamorro.
According to the police, the “only objective” of these people is “to give continuity to terrorists’ acts, and reactivate the barricades with their coup mongering goals, having among their immediate plans to affect families in their well-deserved celebrations of “La Purísima” (Immaculate Conception), Christmas and New Year.”
Gabriel Alvarez warned that the police accusations are “a serious imputation of crimes.” “There are several very serious accusations and the Public Ministry should investigate, because the police, by saying all that, may be committing the felony of libel. Furthermore, we are dealing with citizens who enjoy much presitige,” said the jurist.
Ana Maria Tello, Coordinator of MESENI of the IACHR, said that she does not know of any investigation regarding the signers of the permit notification. “However, my personal impression is that the group that requested authorization for the march is known. They are people from different sectors, businessmen, journalists, defenders of human rights. That is one of the reasons why the permit has not been granted,” she said.
Alvarez said that if the Police have a list of people who are being investigated for the crimes charged, they should make it public. Not doing so, according to him, is “another serious fault of their professional duties.”
Tunnermann pointed out that the regime returns again “to resuscitate their story of a coup d’état” so that “nobody can take to the streets.”
“Those who the Police consider to be in disagreement with the government, lose the right to take to the streets. They make a reckless assertion when attributing these crimes that these people participated in a failed coup d’état attempt. They are curtailing a constitutional right,” he assured.
Intimidation and police deployment
MESENI also warned about the “intimidation and harassment” suffered by two of the signatories of the notification: Jaime Arellano and Juan Sebastian Chamorro. Both were harassed by police officers when leaving their homes, and have also been temporarily detained, while the Police deployed more than 200 troops, at points such as 100% Noticias and the Teresiano School, the starting point of the march on Sunday.
“We were aware that these two people were harassed and intimidated at their homes,” asserted the coordinator of MESENI. “We are deeply concerned about the various acts of intimidation and even harassment against people who demonstrated with patriotic symbols or against the government. Above all regarding peasant leaders, journalists detained, there are many situations that concern us,” insisted Tello.
Gabriel Alvarez regretted that Commander Ortega continues to worsen the sociopolitical crisis. According to him, all the initiatives that are born in El Carmen [Ortega’s bunker, office, FSLN party headquarters and home] involve acts of force involving repression and imprisonment. “Not only does he not give you permission to march, but he will never give it,” he remarked.
Ana Quiroz, from the feminist movement, said that they will not march on Sunday to avoid further violence. Meanwhile, the regime already announced a counter-march for that same day.
“They are preventing mobilization. We will continue insisting, because we are assisted by reason and the right to mobilize. We cannot be hostages of the will of a few. The police cannot reinterpret the Constitution. Citizens’ rights cannot be infringed,” stated Quiroz.
However, Alvarez notes that the whimsical use of the laws is old hat and familiar to the Ortega-Murillo regime. The authoritarian political drift of the Ortega-Murillo during the last eleven years of government have led “to a total end to freedoms.”
“The freedoms that existed before (April) were concessions. Those freedoms that were there was because Daniel Ortega and his wife did not see any threat to remain in power…it was more a tactful concession than the exercise of constitutional rights,” stated Alvarez. “Now it is a personalized regime, where institutions were diluted and personified in the couple. Citizens are totally defenseless,” he commented.