According to an agreement that the Nicaraguan National Assembly approved on September 7, 2021, Russia will help Nicaragua to “prevent, detect, and put an end to computer incidents, as well as to investigate crimes and criminal cases related to the use of information and communication technologies for terrorist and criminal purposes.”
“For years, the Russian government has focused on using Nicaragua as a platform for cyber and electronic operations,” a Nicaraguan constitutional lawyer, who requested anonymity to avoid harassment by followers of Daniel Ortega, told Diálogo. “This agreement means surrendering the country’s security to the Russians […], and will be used for launching, from a closer point in the hemisphere, cyberattacks or electoral interference.”
The agreement does not define precisely what type of data the countries will exchange, or how they will do so. “It is necessary to identify what information Russia can obtain that could affect any right or guarantee of Nicaraguans,” Antonio Maza, an Argentine expert in forensic analysis, digital investigation, and computer security, said to the Nicaraguan magazine Confidencial.
The United States warned about possible Russian interference in cyberattacks, and on April 15 announced sanctions against more than 30 Russian individuals and entities for interfering in the 2020 U.S. elections, orchestrating a massive cyberattack on U.S. and partner nations’ institutions, and “fostering and using transnational corruption to influence foreign governments.”
María Oviedo, a defense attorney for political prisoners through the Nicaraguan nongovernmental organization (NGO) Permanent Commission on Human Rights, has been detained since July 29, “for the alleged crime of high treason,” the Peruvian newspaper La República reported. The Office of the Attorney General accused Oviedo of “conspiracy and spreading fake news through information and communication technologies.”
Amaru Ruiz Alemán, president-in-exile of the NGO Fundación del Río, who advocates for the environment and for the rights of indigenous people, was also accused of the same crime. Through social media, Ruiz reported on human rights violations against Nicaraguan populations and violence against indigenous communities in 2020 and 2021, including the September 3, 2021 massacre in the Mayangna de Sauni As territory, in the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve, the Swiss-based NGO World Organization Against Torture reported.
With this new agreement, Russia will be able to enter into “specific collaboration agreements” with Nicaragua to “analyze and evaluate jointly the threats to international information security,” the agreement states.