December 7, 2022, 1:25 PM
December 7, 2022, 1:25 PM
The Government of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua has dissolved almost half of the more than 7,000 registered NGOs in the country, through decrees that affected cultural, religious, sports, scientific, press, community development, education and health associations, it was reported on Tuesday.
The data is in the “NGO file”, a dossier of three reports presented in Costa Rica by representatives of the Nunca Más Nicaragua Human Rights Collective, the Fundación del Río and the Popol Nah Foundation. The last two were also closed by Ortega in 2018.
“In 2018 the Government reported 7,227 legal entities active” NGOs, said Amaru Ruiz, director of the environmental Fundación del Río. “To date, 3,106 have been cancelled,” which represents more than 42% of the total number of associations, he added.
Ruiz said that most of the NGOs were closed in 2022 and that many managers are in prison or in exile. “These closures demonstrate the magnitude of the violations of the right of association,” recognized in the Nicaraguan Constitution and in the international human rights system, he said.
For his part, lawyer Carlos Guadamuz, from the Nicaragua Nunca Más collective, presented the results of an investigation carried out with a sample of nine NGOs closed by Ortega (eight national and one international) with an average of 24 years of work in the country.
The Nicaraguan Government has justified the closure of NGOs by pointing out an alleged “non-compliance” in the accountability of these entities before the Ministry of the Interior (Interior), which requires them to present financial statements and annual renewal of directives, among many other requirements.
According to Guadamuz, the closure of these nine NGOs had an “economic, social and environmental impact” in more than 50 municipalities, mostly in the northern and Caribbean regions. There, more than 50,000 people were left without access to essential services, he stressed.
At the same time, the State appropriated at least four million dollars in confiscated property and equipment to the nine NGOs included in the investigation, he added.
In turn, Katherine Ramírez, from the Popol Nah Foundation, who worked on community development projects in Nicaragua, said that on the list of closed NGOs includes dozens of European and US NGOs, some present for more than 30 years in the country.
“The state apparatus is in function of restricting the freedom of association and its response to citizens is jail or exile,” said Ramírez.
Nicaragua is experiencing a serious political crisis that erupted with the social protests of 2018, where the repression by the police and the military left at least 355 dead, 2,000 injured and more than 100,000 exiled, according to human rights organizations.
This crisis worsened in 2021, when Ortega was re-elected for a fourth term after sending his seven main political rivals to prison and dozens of opposition leaders, student and peasant leaders, businessmen, lawyers and journalists. According to the opposition, the number of “political prisoners” exceeds 200.