The Ortega-Murillo dictatorship is determined to survive until at least 2021, as demonstrated by the latest violations of civil and political rights and the utter refusal to release over 80 political prisoners that remain incarcerated.
Constant violations are clear evidence of a state of exception, with Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo reaping the benefits of absolute political power. Their party controls the executive, judicial, electoral, and legislative branches of government, and Ortega himself exercises undue power over the police and the military.
This state of affairs allows the dictatorship to destroy the rule of law and to establish a “de facto state of exception.”
In a state of exception, the ruler suspends the rule of law, arguably to protect the integrity of the state itself and guarantee its survival. Unfortunately, what is being protected in Nicaragua is not the Nicaraguan state, but the monopolistic power of one family and one party.
To ensure survival until 2021, at least, the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship engages in doublespeak. On the one hand, their envoys sign agreements, pledging to restore civil and political liberties. On the other hand, Ortega-Murillo police and paramilitaries harass, intimidate, kidnap, and violate laws without consequence.
None of these constant violations are ever acknowledged in the myriad of official press releases coming out of El Carmen.
On the contrary, the latest press release says that “the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity” already released all political prisoners in their custody, and that this process was duly witnessed by the Luis Angel Rosadilla, the OAS special envoy, and Mons. Waldemar Sommertag, the apostolic nuncio.
Still, the Alianza Cívica contends that over 80 political prisoners remain incarcerated. Of these, at least 50 were incarcerated after March 30, one day after signing the agreement to release all political prisoners.
As for the dictatorship’s pledge to restore and respect civil and political rights, this agreement has never been implemented at all. The right to public assembly, for example, has been suspended by police decree since October of 2018.
Now, freedom of worship is also under siege.
Over the weekend, Ortega-Murillo paramilitaries and sympathizers attacked church goers attending a memorial service for Sandor Dolmus, a fifteen-year-old altar boy killed during a paramilitary attack. Dolmus was “shot in the chest with a high-caliber firearm.”
Dolmus’ one-year memorial mass was held on Saturday, June 15, at the Cathedral of León. The day began with a police deployment.
La guardia orteguista circula por las calles de León donde hoy se realizarán dos misas, una por el alma del monaguillo Sandor Dolmus, asesinado por ellos hace un año y la segunda en acción de gracias por la salida de la cárcel de los rehenes políticos. pic.twitter.com/KF5YLDxMvp
— Café con Voz (@CafeconVozNi) June 15, 2019
To ensure maximum disruption of the memorial, the local FSLN organized an event right outside the cathedral. They set up a stage, surrounded the plaza with police, and then blasted Ortega-themed music during the service
El Frente Sandinista instaló una tarima y a miembros de la Policía, frente a la Catedral de León a la hora en la que se celebra la misa en memoria de Sandor Dolmus, el monaguillo asesinado el año pasado. @laprensa #Nicaragua pic.twitter.com/r3yibFtuy9
— Abixael Mogollón (@abixael33) June 15, 2019
One of the songs that played during the service was Ortega’s 1990 campaign theme, El Gallo Enavajado, which can be heard in the background of this video, showing Ortega-Murillo sympathizers throwing rocks at the cathedral.
Turbas orteguistas atacaron hoy a manifestantes antigobierbo en la Catedral de León, cuando los opositores participaban en la misa de aniversario del monaguillo Sandor Dolmus. #Artículo66 #DerechoAInformar pic.twitter.com/povF615O3Y
— Artículo 66 (@Articulo66Nica) June 16, 2019
This is the view from inside the cathedral, after the service, as Ortega sympathizers throw rocks into the building. At least one woman was injured during the attack.
#ÚltimaHora Fanáticos del la Dictadura Ortega-Murillo lanzan piedras y chibolas a los fieles católicos que participaron en la misa en homenaje al monaguillo asesinado Sandor Dolmus, en León.
Una fémina resulta lesionada a manos de los sandinistas. pic.twitter.com/mO1KiSh9B8
— Yelsin Espinoza R (@yelsinespinoza) June 15, 2019
— Hector Rosales (@Hector_RosalesA) June 15, 2019
All of this happened under the watchful eye of the police. They did nothing to stop it.
Human Rights Watch released a report today, calling for “targeted sanctions against top Nicaraguan authorities implicated in egregious abuses”.
NEW @HRW REPORT
The Nicaraguan government has tortured, abused and arbitrarily prosecuted critics.
The only way to curb widespread abuses is through sustained international pressure, including targeted sanctions and pressure for accountability.
— José Miguel Vivanco (@JMVivancoHRW) June 19, 2019
In a state of exception, where an asymmetrical correlation of forces exists, international pressure may be a deciding factor in breaking the stalemate in Nicaragua.
However, it is not the only factor. Dictatorships fall when internal support decays. Ortega and Murillo still have a loyal base of sympathizers and armed civilians, whose actions are protected by police and covered up by every echelon of state power.
That is what maintains Ortega afloat, a monopoly of power that allow him to perpetuate a state of exception, no matter the consequences.