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Total control of NGOs in Nicaragua: Ortega approves new law to “regulate” them

The National Assembly urgently approved a new General Law for the Regulation and Control of Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs), which prohibits direct or indirect political proselytism and that organizations use their structure “to violate public order” or promote “destabilization campaigns” in Nicaragua, coinciding with the speech of the Ortega regime to justify the cancellation of more than 143 NGOs from 2018 to date.

The Law presented by the president of the Assembly and Ortega deputy, Gustavo Porras, was approved this Thursday, March 31, with 77 votes in favor by the ruling party, 12 abstentions and two present. The document made up of 12 chapters and 57 articles repeals Law 147, General Law on Non-Profit Legal Entities.

In article 36 of the new Law, the regime prohibits civil society organizations from publicly identifying themselves with a name other than the one registered; nor can they carry out activities for the personal gain of their members or carry out activities other than their objectives and purposes.

It states that they cannot distribute among their members dividends, profits, financial remnants or materials from donations, public contributions or surpluses of any nature obtained in accordance with their objectives and purposes. In sections 4, 8 and 10 they explicitly prohibit organizations from participating in political issues.

“They cannot carry out direct or indirect activities that imply political proselytism; NPOs cannot intervene in party political matters, nor violate their objectives for which it was created and registered in this country” and finally, they are restricted to “Use the organizational scheme to violate public order, promote destabilization campaigns in the country, supporting, facilitating and inciting the affectation of citizen security and the legitimate exercise of human rights of Nicaraguan families,” reads the document. .

In the explanatory statement of the Law, the regime justifies the new legal instrument as part of recommendation eight of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which indicates that countries must review the suitability of the “laws and regulations related to entities that can be improperly used for the financing of terrorism”, and the new measures must be focused on promoting transparency and fostering greater confidence in the donor community and in the population in general.

“In its content, the initiative promotes transparent practices in the execution of projects of a religious, charitable, civil, social, cultural and educational nature, developed by NPOs.” In this way, it excludes NGOs that promote democracy and the defense of human rights, against whom the Government has attacked since 2018.

The Law was approved in a context in which the Ortega regime has canceled in the last four years (2018 to March 2022) 143 legal status and has confiscated the assets of at least half a dozen of the organizations. According to the new Law, until 2022 there are 6,566 NGOs in the country.

They legalize confiscations to NGOs

The new law empowers the State of Nicaragua to confiscate the assets of non-profit organizations, in clear violation of the Political Constitution of Nicaragua, which in its article 44 prohibits the “confiscation of goods”. In article 47 of the new legislation, it states that the State will keep the properties of the NGOs when the legal personality has been canceled for the following reasons:

  1. When it is used for the commission of illicit acts
  2. When used to violate public order
  3. For hindering the control and surveillance of the General Directorate of Registration and Control of NPOs
  4. When they distort the objectives and purposes for which it was created, according to the articles of incorporation and its statutes
  5. When you have at least one year of noncompliance before the enforcement authority by not reporting financial statements and changes in the board of directors
  6. When their activities are contrary to the nature of the legal personality, including the profit motive.
  7. For using the organizational scheme to violate public order, promote destabilization campaigns in the country, supporting, facilitating and inciting the affectation of citizen security and the legitimate exercise of human rights of Nicaraguan families.
  8. Due to administrative sanction derived from non-compliance with obligations or carrying out prohibited actions in accordance with the provisions of this law, its regulations and regulations.

It is exempt from confiscation when the cancellation of the NGO is due to “dissolution and liquidation”.

For Amaru Ruiz, president of the Fundación del Río that was also confiscated in 2018, this law represents the “Criminalization of civil society organizations that is institutionalized through a law to purge the organizations that they consider to be at risk for the regime”. In addition, he contemplates “a massive confiscation of these assets that the organizations have and that they have generated by the development programs and projects that they have executed,” he said.

Before this law was approved at a stroke, the Ministry of the Interior (Migob) justified the request for cancellations of NGOs due to the lack of compliance in the report of their financial statements and updating in their board of directors, which they now include as a direct lack for the State to keep the assets of the NGOs.

In the repealed Law it stipulated in its article 25 that once the personality of an NGO was cancelled, its assets would be liquidated according to the provisions of its statutes, and only in the event that nothing was provided in this regard, would they become part of the State.

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