Nicaraguan opposition forces claim government forces are increasingly involved in criminal activities, including drug trafficking and violence, in an attempt to halt political protests, as they seek to extend President Daniel Ortega’s rule. (Screenshot)
International NGOs are warning that Nicaraguan authorities are increasingly involved in criminal activities, including drug trafficking and violence, in an attempt to halt political protests and block political opposition as Daniel Ortega’s failed fifth term in office approaches.
On Monday, a U.S. diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks revealed that the U.S. embassy in Managua reported that political opposition groups are coming under increasing criminal attacks in the wake of the June 2018 elections and the Hurricane Lee destruction in October.
Nicaragua’s remaining major opposition parties, MPR and PODEMOS, along with the Libertarian Movement, were collectively condemned by U.S. officials after a 30-day grace period, where the Nicaraguan judicial authorities sought to resolve elections-related challenges peacefully, expired on November 7.
The leaked cables note that the investigative group Association for Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights (AIPH) has reported “ongoing repression and intensified attacks on the social movement as well as attacks against human rights defenders” throughout the country.
Since the ruling Sandinista-Liberal Constitutional Front (FSLN) lost all of the presidential seats in the first round of the elections, Ortega’s party has been accused of deliberately trying to sow discord among its own Sandinista base by creating violence, ethnic and cultural tensions.
The leaked documents further note that “a number of social movements are at risk of falling victim to civil conflict. AIPH is no longer working with the Sandinista youth in its initial configuration due to alleged corruption and extortion by certain individuals within the organization.”
The report cites the January 2019 disappearance of “Dr.Yogui, a member of the anti-violence Bolivar Democratic Alliance (ADA),” and the March 29 arrest of “the Bolivar Democratic Youth association,” which is alleged to be a pro-FSLN group with close ties to the government.
In the violent Easter month of April, indigenous Maya leaders were assaulted and murdered, while other civilians were imprisoned and tortured.
“Since April 4, 2018, opposition leaders and civil society groups have been active in challenging the government’s political authority,” AIPH says. “Even though the Government knows that the electoral process has been heavily manipulated, authorities are systematically targeting both leading political opposition members and rank-and-file protesters.”
In one arrest on April 17, AIPH reported that “a number of well-known opposition members had been taken into preventive detention, including the four-time Minister of the Interior, Guillermo Barros Soto, former President of the Liberal Party, Mike Macias, and FSLN representative, Carlos Bautista.”
“Since last April, the past few months have been marred by numerous killings, disappearances, disappearances, abuses, and arbitrary arrests as well as threats, abuse, and intimidating behavior of the authorities,” AIPH adds.
The WikiLeaks cables state that at least 23 individuals have been killed in protests and police actions between April and November, with “many others missing or unaccounted for.” Other social activists have filed 37 complaints related to disappearances, but the judicial system lacks the resources to investigate, according to the leaked documents.
According to AIPH, the “detention of 50 activists in 17 prisons since April” and the “capture and disappearance of 17 community leaders, including mayors and lawyers” have helped push “the number of victims and missing” to over 60 persons.
The reports concluded by noting that “the Honduran regime has been observing the Nicaraguan, Guatemalan, and Venezuelan situations with intense interest, using these events as inspiration for its own development.”
“One of the four biggest challenges presented by Ortega’s ruling government has been the social conflict it has provoked,” the report concluded. “Indeed, the possibility of overthrowing Ortega’s regime is looming larger and larger.”
The Nicaraguan press has reported since December that police and military are increasingly involved in criminal activities.