When there is little more than a month to complete the Trump administration, it continues to monitor and denounce abuses in countries hard hit by repression, and where there is a social and political crisis with few signs of being corrected in the short term. This is the case of Nicaragua, immersed in a crisis since April 2018, when protests took place against the Government of Ortega and Murillo, which were repressed by the police leaving a balance of more than 300 dead, more than a hundred political prisoners and a trail of laws to silence any dissent (the first was in September 2018, prohibiting any demonstration; whoever does not comply with it would be charged terrorist).
Last October, two other new laws were approved: one on cybercrime, which will sanction – with jail and fines – critical opinions against the Ortega regime, including publications on social networks. “The ambiguous language of these laws leaves the Government all the space to use it as a tool of repression,” he denounced in a call this Wednesday with journalists, Michel G. Kozak, US Undersecretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs This law, known in Nicaragua as the “Gag Law,” is very similar to Decree Law 370, approved by the Cuban regime last year, and which has systematically employed throughout 2020 against independent journalists, to silence their criticism during the pandemic.
The other law passed in Nicaragua is the one that regulates foreign agents, dubbed the “Putin Law”, and which Kozak described as a “fallacy.” “Although it tries to target foreign agents, in fact it is intended to Nicaraguan civil society, to the country’s independent media».
The reason for the telephone appointment was to denounce the progressive deterioration of the human rights situation in Nicaragua. According to the diplomat, the two laws mentioned would be aimed at «Hinder democratic participation at a time when the nation is preparing for the presidential elections of November 2021, and it is crucial that they pass successfully so that the crisis in which Nicaragua is plunged can be overcome, “said Kozak, who believes that the Law Regulation of Foreign Agents will have an inhibitory effect on the activities of civil society in the period prior to the elections. “Various legal analysts have pointed out that the ambiguous language used by the law gives the government wide discretion to use it as a tool of repression.”
The “Foreign Agents” and “Cybercrimes” laws restrict freedom of expression and threaten legitimate humanitarian organizations.
To regain trust, Ortega must allow free and fair elections in 2021 and begin electoral reforms now.
— Michael G. Kozak (@WHAAsstSecty) December 16, 2020
So far, one of the first victims of the law has been a NGO sueca, We Effect, that last December 11 announced that it was ceasing to operate in the country immediately. “The decision is a consequence of the new legislation that obliges all people and organizations that receive funding from international organizations to register as” foreign agents “,” the organization reported on its website. “The law is another example that democratic space is shrinking in the world. Especially during the Covid-19 pandemic we have seen that the freedoms and fundamental rights of people are reduced, “he laments Anna Tibblin, Secretaria General de We Effect.
This law will not, however, prevent further US cooperation in Nicaragua in the future. «We are going to move on. We have extensive experience finding ways to provide assistance despite these types of illegitimate obstructions. But it is really alarming that they are exerting this degree of pressure on absolutely apolitical non-governmental and humanitarian organizations – he warned -. It makes the fear of the regime very clear, since nor tolerate anyone who is in any way independent of them, even if their activities are absolutely benign and contribute to the well-being of the Nicaraguan people. And he insisted that the US will continue with its efforts, “and we intend to be successful in supporting the broad spectrum of peaceful non-governmental organizations that promote democracy and human rights in Nicaragua.”
The same concern as for Venezuela and Cuba
Over the last four years, the Trump Administration has tightened sanctions and applied measures against various regimes in Latin America, especially against Venezuela and Cuba. He has also done it against the Government of Daniel Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, president and vice president, respectively of the country. Asked by ABC on whether he considered that the US had done enough to help the Nicaraguan people live in a more democratic country, Kozak was blunt: «We have done everything possible to, in the three countries, try to generate respect for human rights, respect for freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, a proper recounting of election results and much more. I do not accept the premise that other countries have interested us more than Nicaragua, “the diplomat concluded.. And he pointed out that “both in the case of Venezuela and Nicaragua, some of these measures began with the previous government,” alluding to the Obama Administration. “The Trump administration has significantly increased pressure in all three countries in recent years. And I would like to point out that when Nicaragua is analyzed in particular, some of the measures that have been adopted – the NICA Law, for example – in our Congress had bipartisan support, that is, from both Republicans and Democrats, and were approved unanimously in Congress, ”Kozak remarked.
Regarding what other pressure measures the United States is willing to apply to promote electoral reform in Nicaragua, in the face of the elections of November 7, 2021, the diplomat warned that as the presidential elections approach, “the margin for President Ortega and his supporters to approve reforms is shrinking.” On October 21, the OAS General Assembly approved a resolution that set Ortega as the May 2021 limit to reform the electoral system. Time is running out and the deadline is running out. This week the legislative period has ended without reforming the Electoral Law.
If the Sandinista government does not carry out this reform, the United States would be prepared “to increase pressure on the Ortega regime in order to promote the electoral reforms that the Nicaraguan people deserve,” Kozak stressed, recalling that, to date , the US sanctions “They have blocked 24 members of the corrupt Ortega regime” (affecting a relative of the president), as well as nine entities “that the regime has used to repress its citizens and hide profits of spurious origin.” Among these entities, he referred to the National Police of Nicaragua, sanctioned for the abuse of force during the repression of the protests in the spring of 2018, which caused hundreds of deaths.
We will continue to use these and other tools that we have until we see genuine electoral reform enacted to allow free and fair elections, the end of the repression and the unconditional release of political prisoners in Nicaragua, “Kozak concluded.
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.