Ortega confiscates NGOs to “demolish” freedom of association

During the past 15 years Daniel Ortega’s regime has used a series of practices to “demolish” freedom of association in Nicaragua, which led to the cancellation of the legal status and registration of at least 115 associations, foundations, political parties and NGOs. This is the conclusion of an investigation undertaken by the Fundación del Río and Popol Na, two organizations that were annulled and confiscated in 2018.

The analysis — “The Brutal Annihilation of Freedom of Association in Nicaragua” — highlights that among the practices to end associations are de facto confiscations, absolute closure of administrative channels, and police violence, as well as blockading access to justice.

“Freedom of association was gradually weakening since 1997. Hostility against Nicaraguan civil society progressively intensified since the Ortega-Murillo regime took control of the State in 2007, until reaching exponentially aggressive acts in retaliation for the massive citizen uprising that began in April 2018,” the document asserts.

Twenty-three De facto Confiscations

The report details that of the 115 associations eliminated between 2007 and 2022, twenty-three were actual confiscations, despite the fact that Article 44 of the Nicaraguan Constitution prohibits this. The seizures occurred by way of police occupation of their buildings or by means of de facto confiscations.

It also highlights that in the cancellation of the legal entities, the Ministry of the Interior (MINGOB) “played a crucial role” by refusing to receive documentation and prefabricating arguments for the Sandinista controlled National Assembly to execute the massive cancellation of legal statuses.

“In most cases, they (MINGOB) deliberately prevented the use of the administrative route by not receiving or answering reports and communications presented by the associations, by denying them their certifications to operate in the country, and by creating a disproportionate burden of new requirements,” the report highlights.

It also emphasizes that the lack of access to justice prevails in Nicaragua as the legal appeals presented by the organizations were never responded to by the Supreme Court of Justice.

“By outlawing organizations, the regime seeks to send social leaders committed to the transformation of the country into unemployment so that they cannot continue to play their role. Likewise, it subjects the communities that were previously beneficiaries to remain in conditions of poverty and political subjugation with the State,” the report adds.

The investigation considers police violence and the arrests of opponents a consequence of the state’s interest in preventing citizens from organizing and defending their rights.

“The people who make up these organizations suffer involuntary displacement within the country, being forced to hide in Nicaragua or go into exile in order to preserve their freedom and integrity,” say the researchers, who left the country after the regime’s confiscations.

Four stages of dismantling

The investigation identifies that between 2007 and early 2022, the Ortega regime executed four phases of stripping freedom of association in Nicaragua.

The first phase occurred from 2007 to 2010 and replicated “the speeches of past governments to politically control, above all, the funds for development that came mostly to non-profit organizations,” the study explains. At this stage, the cancellation of two political parties stands out: the Sandinista Renewal Movement (MRS) and the Conservative Party. The latter regained its legal status two years later.

From 2011 to 2015, they identify a second stage characterized by repression of social movements. The next, or third, stage occurred from 2016 to 2018 and is highlighted by pressures on the non-profit organizations that accompanied the social movements that came out to protest. This triggered the cancellation of nine organizations that were dedicated to the defense of human, environmental and indigenous rights, political, freedom of expression and women’s rights.

The last stage has been implemented from 2019 to date. It is characterized by the consolidation of a restrictive legal framework for non-profit organizations in order to justify “the increase in control, monitoring, intimidation and restriction of the work of international organizations present in the country,” they assert.

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times

Redacción Confidencial

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