Saturday, January 12, 2019

Nicaragua at the crossroads: OAS examines Central American nation's slide into dictatorship under the Ortega regime

The end of democracy in Nicaragua examined by the Organization of American States.

Special Meeting of the OAS Permanent Council to “Consider the situation in Nicaragua”
 On Friday, January 11, 2019 the Organization of American States began the Inter-American Democratic Charter process regarding Nicaragua.  Representatives from Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia and the usual suspects howled in protest, but events in the Central American country under the regime of Daniel Ortega indicate that something must be done.

The Nicaraguan magazine Confidencial reported that the "Mothers of April Association of Nicaragua, formed by women who have lost their children or relatives in the demonstrations against President Ortega, demanded on Thursday ( January 10, 2019) to the OAS member countries to apply the Democratic Charter to the Government of Nicaragua."

Articles 20 and 21, of the the Inter-American Democratic Charter provides the procedures against a member State that is no longer a democracy and suspending its participation in the programs of the organization.

There is ample reason to suspend Nicaragua from the Organization of American States.

On April 18, 2018 long standing frustrations with the Sandinista regime of Daniel Ortega erupted across Managua in response to a "reform" of the pension system that reduced them for current recipients while raising the amount taken from salaries of current workers. At 5:00pm "Sandinista youth" and national police attacked protesters, destroyed commercial establishments and took over the Central American University.This is how crackdown on the remnants of Nicaraguan democracy began and have continued over the past eight months.

Tens of thousands of Nicaraguans took to the streets demanding an end to the repression. Peaceful protesters and journalists were shot and killed by government forces. The São Paulo Forum, a network of communists, radical leftists, and terrorists groups met in Havana to back Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas' actions in Nicaragua.

Reporter Ángel Eduardo Gahona, shot and killed while reporting protests
 The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reported "325 deaths and over 2000 injuries, 550 arrests and prosecutions, the dismissal of 300 health professionals, and the expulsion of at least 144 students from the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN)." Furthermore that the Ortega regime has created a climate of impunity "with the de facto implementation of a state of exception that is characterized by the abusive use of public forces to repress dissidents, raids, the closure and censorship of media outlets, the imprisonment or exile of journalists and social leaders, and interference by the office of the president in other branches of government."  

Nicaraguan torture victims have reported hearing Venezuelan and Cuban accents in the regime's secret prisons. The Miami Herald quoted Nicaraguan student leader Victor Cuadras on July 13, 2018:

“Castro copied his recipe for repression and harassment in Venezuela, and now they are doing it in Nicaragua. There are many people who, while being tortured, heard the accents of Venezuela and Cuba in the clandestine prisons.”
Victor is right to cite Venezuela. Beginning in February of 2014 the high profile torture and killing of Venezuelan student opposition activists were carried out to terrorize the student pro-democracy movement. Reports in the media at the time described individuals with Cuban accents involved in the brutality. Protests erupted in Venezuela with Cuban flags being burned while denouncing the Castro regime’s role in the repression. The pattern is being repeated today in Nicaragua.

Medical student Amaya Coppens arbitrarily detained in Nicaragua
In Nicaragua, student activists are facing prison sentences in excess of 30 years, torture, and rape. Amaya Coppens, reported on in this blog back in September of 2018, remains in prison and faces a political show trial with a Sandinista judge in February of 2019. She was just 23 years old at the time of her arrest. Human Rights organizations report that there are currently 576 political prisoners in Nicaragua.

Journalists have been the targets of extrajudicial killings and arbitrary detentions in Nicaragua over the past eight months. The Committee to Protect Journalists issued an open letter that highlighted some of the more egregious incidents during the Ortega crackdown.
We strongly condemn the December raids on the offices of two major independent news outlets, and the detention of Miguel Mora and Lucía Pineda Ubau, journalists from independent cable and digital channel 100% Noticias, on multiple anti-state charges. These latest anti-press actions occurred shortly before the Christmas holiday, when many in the international community might typically be distracted; however, they did not go unnoticed.
Mora and Pineda, arrested during a December 21 police raid on the 100% Noticias offices in Managua and rushed through court appearances with no access to legal representation, stand accused of crimes including "inciting violence and hate" and "promoting terrorism." The government has not presented any evidence to date to support the charges against these journalists, who took a lead role in their channel's critical reporting over the last eight months. More than two weeks after their arrest, both journalists remain in pre-trial detention, and their channel is still banned from broadcasting.
Just a week before the raid on 100% Noticias, riot police ransacked the Managua offices of independent news website Confidencial and two affiliated television programs, all led by renowned journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, and confiscated equipment and documents.
These are just the latest hostile acts capping off a year that saw dozens of attacks on the media, including the April 20 arson attack on Radio Darío in León and the April 21 death of reporter Ángel Eduardo Gahona, who was shot and killed on camera while reporting on protests in Bluefields.
The failure of the international community to call out the Ortega regime for its decade long assault on democratic institutions led to the conditions that made the April 2018 crackdown possible. According to a defecting Sandinista Supreme Court justice the possibility of civil war  and economic chaos in Nicaragua is closer now than every before.

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