“We are witnessing the total rupture between the Nicaraguan government and Latin American democracies. Ortega is not interested in following international security standards; instead, he acts according to his political needs,” Jorge Serrano, a scholar at the Peruvian Center for Higher National Studies, told Diálogo. “He knows that he is disrupting the democratic order when granting citizenship to fugitives.”
Nicaragua signed an extradition treaty with Central American countries in 1987. However, the latest fugitive to obtain Nicaraguan citizenship, in July 2019, was former Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes (2009-2014), who was granted asylum in the country in 2016, said the Nicaraguan Official Gazette.
On March 22, the Salvadoran Supreme Court asked Nicaraguan authorities to extradite Funes, who is accused of money laundering and misappropriation of $351 million in public funds. Both he and his son, Diego Roberto Funes Cañas, appear on the roster of the Nicaraguan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, earning high salaries, said the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa.
In August 2018, Guatemalan businessman and political operator Gustavo Adolfo Herrera Castillo, who has an arrest warrant from the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala for money laundering and corruption, was also granted political asylum in Nicaragua. Another head of state who found protection with Ortega is Thailand’s former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, charged with corruption and encouraging violent protests in the capital, Bangkok, which resulted in several deaths and more than 100 injured.
“Ortega grants asylum to people of questionable reputation. The country is being flooded with narcotraffickers, terrorists, corrupt individuals, and human rights offenders,” said Marcos Carmona, director of the nongovernmental organization Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Nicaragua, to the online news portal Nicaragua Investiga. Meanwhile, the book Reagan’s War on Terrorism in Nicaragua: The Outlaw State, by Phillip W. Travis, professor at the State College of Florida, indicates that many members of the Basque terrorist group ETA arrived in Nicaragua back in the 1980s, under Sandinista protection.
“Ortega wouldn’t act this way if he didn’t have Venezuela’s direct support, Cuba’s strategic guidance, and also Russia and China in the background, as a way to destabilize the Americas,” Serrano concluded. “The Nicaraguan regime seeks to remain in power by using repression while protecting criminals, regardless of the country’s image in the world.”