Thursday, December 13, 2018

Nicaragua's gov't attacks Cenidh (Dec. 13, 2018)

Nicaraguan lawmakers cancelled the legal registration of the Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights (Cenidh) and Hagamos Democracia, in response to a government request alleging the human rights organizations were acting to "destabilize" the country. Leaders from both organizations categorically denied the allegations. (El Nuevo Diario)

Cenidh president Vilma Núñez promised to continue working and to challenge the decision which she called "arbitrary and illegal." On Monday the police had denied Cenidh permission to hold a march in honor of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It seems to be a new chapter in political persecution that has been ongoing since April, reports El País. Human rights organizations, including WOLA and the U.N. Human Rights Office, protested the cancellation, calling it political revenge. Amnesty International denounced the move as persecution of those who denounce rights violations committed by the Ortega administration. Human Rights Watch calls the cancellation arbitrary, and notes "the government’s concerted effort to silence nongovernmental groups and critical media outlets."

Cenidh has been operating for 28 years and is one of the country's most respected human rights organizations. (AFP) On Monday Cenidh presented a report accusing the Nicaraguan government of practicing systematic human rights violations against anti-government protesters. (El Nuevo Diario)

The Sandinista controlled National Assembly has taken away legal registration from a total of four organizations of civil society in recent weeks, reports El Nuevo Diario. The others are the Centro de Información y Servicios de Asesoría en Salud (CISAS) and the Instituto de Estudios Estratégicos y Políticas Públicas (IEEPP) -- both of whose leaders are in exile.

Cenidh estimates 565 political prisoners at this time, more than the peak under the Somoza dictatorship, according to Confidencial. Earlier this week Cenidh denounced 10 politically motivated detentions over just two days, reports Nuevo Diario.

Some of Nicaragua's biggest business leaders wrote a letter to Ortega urging him to call early elections, under a new electoral council, along with political reform and consensus with opposition forces, reports Confidencial. The Cosep business lobby, most of whose leaders joined call, was a key Ortega ally until earlier this year. (See April 23's post.)

This week the U.S. Congress passed the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality (NICA) Act, which seeks to condition U.S. approval for loans to the Ortega government from international financial institutions.  It also grants the U.S. administration additional authorities to sanction government officials involved in "significant acts of violence or conduct that constitutes an abuse or violation of human rights against persons associated with the protests in Nicaragua that began on April 18, 2018." (USA Today)

The newly approved Nica Act will combine with previous U.S. sanctions against Nicaraguan officials with devastating economic effects, reports Confidencial. (See Nov. 28's post.) Human Rights Watch called on U.S. President Donald Trump to quickly sign the bill, which "will create a powerful tool to press the Ortega-Murillo government to end its pattern of abuse against opponents."

Already U.S. banks are pulling out of operations, which will complicate international transactions, reports Confidencial separately.

The Nicaraguan armed forces, which have remained largely outside of the conflict, but has been increasingly questioned for its "silent complicity," according to security expert Roberto Cajina. Trust in Nicaragua's army has plummeted this year, from 45 percent to 22 percent. (Confidencial)

News Briefs

  • Dissident FARC groups are terrorizing Tumaco's largely Afro-Caribbean population said Human Rights Watch in a new report that shows how flaws in the demobilization of FARC guerrillas – and in their reincorporation into society – helped prompt the formation of these new dissident groups.
  • Colombian President Iván Duque warned Venezuela's joint military exercises with Russia should put the entire South American continent on alert against an "unfriendly act", reports AFP. (See Tuesday's briefs.)
  • On Jan. 10 Nicolás Maduro will swear in for a second presidential term in Venezuela. In response, the Lima Group is discussing strong diplomatic strategies. Proposals include breaking off diplomatic relations, recalling ambassadors, formally interacting with the opposition-led National Assembly, and prohibiting travel of Venezuelan officials to Lima Group countries, writes David Smilde in the Venezuela Weekly.
  • In the meantime the National Assembly is debating naming a new president as it considers Maduro's reelection to be illegitimate. "This debate brings to the fore a long-term tendency within the Venezuelan opposition to confuse legitimacy and power, legality and causality. ... This conflation is popular among the opposition base, but time and again has led to frustrated expectations that an illegitimate Chavismo would fall under its own weight or inevitably draw international intervention," explains Smilde.
  • Yesterday Maduro said that White House National Security Adviser John Bolton is heading a U.S. plan to assassinate him. (EFE)
  • Former PDVSA head Nelson Martínez died in state custody yesterday. He was arrested last year as part of an anti-corruption purge, and died from a serious and chronic illness according to authorities. (Associated Press)
  • Venezuela's government said earlier this week it would investigate Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co’s local management and re-start operations at its factory, after the U.S. company closed operations, reports Reuters.
  • Two Central American groups marched to the U.S. consulate in Tijuana demanding faster asylum processing and a halt to U.S. deportations. One group criticized U.S. intervention in Central America and asked that the Trump administration pay them $50,000 each or allow them into the United States, reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he is in discussions with Trump on the issue of migration, and that they talked about the possibility of creating a joint program for development and job creation in Central America and Mexico. (Reuters)
  • AMLO took the first step towards his predecessor's controversial education reform -- a key campaign promise -- and announced plans to vastly expand free university education, reports the Associated Press. The reform will be replaced by a system centers around the right to education. AMLO promised to do away with teacher evaluations, one of the most polemic parts of the policy, but did not explain how vacancies will be filled, reports Animal Político.  Because the reform was written into the constitution, the changes will have to go to congress and state legislatures.
  • U.S. diplomats suffering from Havana Syndrome all suffer damage to the inner ear, reports the New York Times.
Central America
  • A new report by Visibles highlights the challenges faced by LGBTIQ people in Central America, where anti-rights groups have been gaining strength.
  • LGBT Brazilians are rushing to marry, fearing potential rollbacks of their rights once Brazil's president-elect Jair Bolsonaro takes office, reports the Guardian.
  • Bolsonaro hasn't yet taken office, but already he's undermining the country's health care system, argues Vanessa Barbara in a New York Times op-ed. Though the public Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS) is far from perfect, it enshrines the principles of equality and universality and deserves to be strengthened, she writes.
  • Bolsonaro's promise to move Brazil's Israel embassy to Jerusalem could harm the country's relationship with Arab countries, warned the Arab League. It would be a sharp shift in Brazilian foreign policy, which has traditionally supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, notes Reuters. (See Nov. 2's post.)
  • The incoming administration's economy minister, Paulo Guedes, is a Chicago Boy, and he's handing out key posts to fellow University of Chicago grads, reports Bloomberg.
  • Ecuador received a $900 million loan from China. President Lenín Moreno celebrated obtaining the "lowest interest rate in history,"a $69.3 million loan at a 2 percent interest rate for “reconstruction” and $30 million in “non-refundable” assistance. Yesterday Ecuador formally joined China's Belt and Road initiative. (Reuters and EFE)
  • Germany and Bolivia reached an agreement for industrial use of lithium, reports Reuters.

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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