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Ortega promotes life sentences against the opposition for “hate crimes” in Nicaragua

The government of Daniel Ortega has sent to Parliament, under his control, two bills that seek to dismantle any opposition muscle in Nicaragua: the introduction of life imprisonment to “punish hate crimes” and the criminalization of all external financing, by alleging reasons of “national security” to “put an end to foreign interference in the internal affairs” of this Central American country.

Ortega urgently sent the bill of life imprisonment to Parliament in the first weeks of September, amid a wave of femicides of girls and women in the country, which led us to suppose that this was the main reason for invoking that penalty not contemplated in the Nicaraguan Penal Code. However, on September 15, during the commemoration of the independence of Nicaragua from Spain, the Sandinista president revealed that the regulations intend to punish opponents, whom the government accuses of “committing hate crimes” and “against peace ”Since April 2018, when the socio-political crisis broke out in Nicaragua.

“They want to continue committing murders, planting bombs, placing destruction, more destruction than they caused in April 2018, added to this, the damage caused by the pandemic, they have no soul, they have no heart, they are not Nicaraguans, they are children of the devil, they are children of the devil. They are full of hatred. They are criminals, ”Ortega shouted in a speech in which he also criticized the international sanctions imposed on his closest entourage, thanks to the denunciations of human rights violations and corruption made by the opposition.

The second bill was presented by the Sandinista Executive this Tuesday, and is titled Regulation of Foreign Agents. The legislative draft states that, in order to prevent “crimes against the security of the State”, it will be prohibited that “any foreign agent, whether organization or natural person, that receives financing from governments and international agencies intervenes in internal issues or politics.”

“They are also prohibited from financing or promoting financing to any type of organization, movement, political party, coalitions or political alliances or associations that develop internal political activities in Nicaragua. Neither may they be civil servants, public employees or candidates for public office of any kind or nature ”, explicitly reads article 12 of the legislative initiative.

Like the life sentence bill, that of Regulation of Foreign Agents it has wide margins of discretion, as independent jurists have criticized. For example, the regulations on financing grant the Ministry of the Interior extreme powers to “supervise any person or entity” that falls under the concept of “foreign agent”. Opponents, journalists, churches, civil society organizations, medical associations, among others, can fall into this category. The margin is wide. And the punishment varies from fines to natural persons to confiscations, freezing of funds and cancellation of legal entities.

“I saw the law of life imprisonment as quite cynical, because they have already prescribed political prisoners, such as the peasant Medardo Mairena, a sentence of up to 210 years, despite the fact that the Political Constitution establishes a maximum penalty of 30 years. But this proposal by foreign agents is extremely dangerous, because it is a pseudo-legal instrument to block any foreign support for internal democratization processes, ”says Violeta Granera, a member of the Blue and White National Coalition, one of the main opposition fronts.

“Although it is true that Ortega has not needed laws,” adds Granera, “the truth is that he wants to take refuge in a non-existent illegality to deceive the international community. But above all to intimidate the opposition, which is close in the fight to open the door to a democratic transition in a peaceful way.

Both bills are interpreted by the opposition as another attempt by the Sandinista government to intimidate and neutralize any attempt at political organization in the face of the general elections scheduled for November 2021.

Funding lock

Although there are still no electoral conditions for credible elections due to the de facto police state and the lack of transparency of the system, a vote means the possibility of ending the socio-political crisis that Nicaragua has been going through since April 2018, when the police and paramilitary forces of Ortega repressed the citizens, with a balance of at least 325 extrajudicial executions.

“It is the total Cubanization of Nicaragua. In what sense? Authoritarian regimes use the strategy of giving a supposed legal content to the State’s repressive mechanisms. They are tricks to legitimize dictatorships, in this case the concept of sovereignty. They really want to criminalize international solidarity by blocking funding for civil society, but also preventing private funding for the opposition, ”complained Félix Maradiaga, a political scientist and one of the most visible faces in the Nicaraguan opposition.

Maradiaga believes that the “bet” of these two bills in the hands of Parliament “is more perverse” than inhibiting opposition candidates or intimidating all kinds of citizen protest with jail.

“What is intended to give legal support to a concept copied from fascist and communist regimes that they (the Government) have been working on: that all opposition is ‘sell country and traitor’. The Ministry of the Interior can designate any Nicaraguan who receives funds as a foreign agent, and not only the organized opposition, but philanthropic institutions that help political prisoners, for example. It is also a tool against the private sector itself, “said Maradiaga, who was prosecuted by the government in 2018 for allegedly” financing terrorism. “