Ortega-Murillo Government Issues Eleven-Page Diatribe

The government led by Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo has escalated its outcry against unilateral economic sanctions, which it considers an illegal act against “the Nicaraguan people.” Today, the government issued an eleven-page diatribe against sanctions.

The document focuses particularly on the NICA Act, which finally became a law in December of 2018. The NICA Act has yet to be utilized. If and when it does, loans from multilateral institutions, such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, will be vetoed by the United States, unless they are earmarked for “basic human needs or to promote democracy”.

The only way to avoid NICA Act sanctions is to fulfill the conditions written into the law, namely:

  • hold free elections overseen by credible domestic and international electoral observers;
  • promote democracy and an independent judicial system and electoral council;
  • strengthen the rule of law;
  • respect the right to freedom of association and expression;
  • combat corruption, including investigating and prosecuting corrupt government officials; and
  • protect the right of political opposition parties, journalists, trade unionists, human rights defenders, and other civil society activists to operate without interference.

Even though the NICA Act hasn’t been set into motion, the United States has issued personal sanctions against six current and former government officials within the Ortega-Murillo administration, including  two members of the Ortega-Murillo family. The sanctioned individuals are Roberto Rivas, former head of the Supreme Electoral Council; Francisco Díaz, current police chief; Fidel Moreno, current secretary of the mayor’s office of Managua; Rosario Murillo, vice president; Nestor Moncada, key advisor, and Laureano Ortega Murillo, Investment Promotion Advisor for ProNicaragua. In addition, the bank BanCorp was sanction in connection with ALBANISA, a subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela (PdVSA).

The Ortega-Murillo administration downplayed the effects of these personal sanction in their press statement. They write: “Obviously, we are not referring to people that have been mentioned as sanctioned. None of the Nicaraguans included in these arbitrary and ilegal measures has accounts, properties, or businesses in the United States. Therefore, these sanctions, though completely unfair, are not a matter of national interest, or personal interest, for anyone.”

The Ortega-Murillo arguments may hold a kernel of truth, as details of their financial holdings are mostly unknown. Nevertheless, the government severely underplays the effects of personal sanctions on those affected by them. For example, individuals like Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler, sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act in 2017, not only lose access to any property and assets under US jurisdiction, they potentially lose access to lucrative business opportunities, as even non-US entities “face serious risks if they continue to provide financial, material or technological support, or if they provide goods or services to the sanctioned entities.”

Today’s press release follows Daniel Ortega’s speech and statements by Vice-President Murillo, both decrying sanctions.

However, no member of the administration has presented a cogent case against sanctions. Today’s press release is no exception, as the document devotes the bulk of its space to invective against the Alianza Cívica, which is clearly blamed for the crisis.

“These are the same characters that refuse to dismantle the “Barricades of Death” last year, and they have been identified by our people as responsible and culpable for crimes and destructive actions committed during that period, in the name of “Democracy”, reads the statement.

The language escalates even more, as the government accuses of orchestrating a “lynching” at the National Dialogue held a year ago in May. It is likely that the statement is referring to the first meeting of the National Dialogue, which was the only one attended by Ortega and Murillo personally. At this meeting, student representatives read the names of over 60 victims of the repression and demanded Ortega and Murillo’s resignation.

Ortega and Murillo go on to even more virulent accusations, as they accuse the opposition of “committing great outrages, included death, arson, kidnapping, torture, perversion, and satanic rituals, demoniacal ones, in the best style of the inquisition, invoking, furthermore, the practice of exorcism, with prepotence and disrespect for the intelligence of Nicaraguans.”

In addition, the government argues that the Nicaraguan opposition has engaged in “serious media machinations to accompany their practices of hatred and ambition,” through the dissemination of fake news.

True to form, the Alianza Cívica responded via press release as well. They called on the government to “lift the brutal sanctions that have been applied to the Nicaraguan people since April 18 of last year.”

The Alianza’s statement describes government actions against the Nicaraguan people as “sanctions”. These include the “systematic violation of human rights”, violations of free speech and assembly, unjust incarceration, and the harassment against relatives of political prisoners and excarcerated individuals.

“We demand the lifting of the sanction of impunity for the crimes committed”.

The Alianza’s statement ends by reminding the government that international sanctions are “the consequence of the sanctions against the people, which have been brutally carried out by the government.”

By “lifting” the sanctions against the people, international sanctions against members of the administration may be lifted as well.

Stalemate in negotiations continues.