The Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo regime has been using Nicaragua’s Foreign Agents Law to dissolve movements and nongovernmental organizations (NGO) that it considers enemies, thereby “dismantling the rule of law,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in late 2021. Since its October 2020 approval until December 14, 2021, the regulation stripped 57 civil entities of their legality. The regime has closed more than 60 institutions since the beginning of the socio-political crisis, the Nicaraguan newspaper Confidencial reported.
The law gives the Ortega-Murillo regime more power to control people, companies, and organizations that receive foreign funding, and sets sanctions, such as cancellation of the legal status of organizations identified as foreign agents.
On December 14, the Ortega-Murillo regime approved a decree urgently ordering the closure of nine NGOs, such as the Hispano-American University, which left thousands of students with unfinished degrees, the Nicaraguan daily La Prensa reported.
“The cancellation of the legal status of the Hispano-American University affects 3,980 students of engineering and [other] degrees, as well as seven higher technical programs, 10 postgraduate and master’s studies, [and] five courses and diploma programs in the Managua, Masaya, Carazo, Granada, and Rivas campuses,” Enrique Cuadra, member of the Nicaraguan Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, said on Facebook.
The Nicaraguan Chamber Association of the Small and Medium Tourism Industry (CANTUR, in Spanish), the Tourism Foundation (FUTURISMO, in Spanish), the Higher Council of Private Universities (COSUP, in Spanish), and the Association of Consultants for the Development of Small and Medium Enterprises (ACODEP, in Spanish) are among the organizations closed down. According to these groups, this persecution and harassment lead to killings, mass exodus, and misery.
“[They seek to] dissolve the work of organized civil society. The rights of dozens of people have been violated and thousands of project beneficiaries throughout the country have been adversely affected,” human rights advocate Gonzalo Carrión, from the Human Rights Collective Nunca Más, in exile in Costa Rica, told Confidencial on December 29, 2021. The regime “already knows that it has lost all social control, and it only knows how to exercise power through guns.”
HRW has called on members of the Organization of American States to invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter. “Strong and sustained international pressure is essential to end serious human rights violations, secure the release of those arbitrarily detained, allow Nicaraguans to return from exile, end censorship, and restore judicial independence and political rights in Nicaragua,” José Miguel Vivanco, director of HWR’s Americas Division, said.
The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH, in Spanish), which lost its legal status in 2018, has a repository containing its history through four different governments from 1990 to 2021.
“Ortega has not only assaulted the people who led these organizations; he has assaulted the entire population that benefited from these projects. With the closure of human rights organizations such as CENIDH, what he did was to detract people from appealing and receiving protection in the absence of government institutions that defends human rights,” Vilma Núñez, president of CENIDH, told the magazine Nicaragua Investiga.
Since April 2018, the repression of the Ortega-Murillo regime has led to some 355 deaths, the exile of more than 130,000 people, the closure of 67 NGOs, and the detention of 157 political prisoners, including more than 40 alone on May 28, 2021, seven of whom were presidential candidates, the newspaper Despacho 505 reported.