An institutional crisis, the dismantling of the rule of law and a disregard for the principle of the separation and independence of the branches of government have continued worsening dramatically, threatening the foundations of representative democracy, all in the interests of obtaining the unconstitutional re-election of President Daniel Ortega. Part of the government’s disregard of the rule of law has been the dismissal without due process of several mayors, of the few that were not victims of the November 2008 electoral fraud. And other mayors have been convinced to leave their parties and cooperate with the Sandinista Front. The government is using the Labor Ministry (MITRAB in its Spanish-language acronym) and the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) to intimidate privately-owned companies through constant inspections and audits. The newspaper La Prensa is one of the victims of this intimidation – since September 2009 the Labor Ministry has carried out five inspections and audits and the Social Security Institute four. La Prensa decided to rescind the contracts of five subscription distributors in order to improve its service to customers, which led to 17 other distributor contractors boycotting the dispatch of the newspapers, giving rise to the commercial contracts with those people being suspended. The Labor Ministry, in a resolution, ordered the 23 distributors working on contract to be rehired as employees after their contracts were rescinded on August 12 for having blocked 23 of the paper’s distribution routes, affecting 3,500 subscribers and readers in Managua. The resolution curtails press freedom in that it takes away the newspaper’s autonomy and independence and violates the freedom to hire guaranteed under the Constitution. La Prensa executives opened their formal defense before labor authorities by arguing that the 23 distributors were not part of the workforce, that a newspaper workers labor union does not exist and that they had evidence that these distributors were working at other companies after distributing the paper for just three hours, and that for these reasons the company had to contract new distributors in order to ensure the newspaper’s circulation. La Prensa filed what is known as an Extraordinary Administrative Litigation Appeal against the MITRAB action in the Supreme Court. In Managua courts, where the distributors filed a labor lawsuit, the newspaper introduced a statement of lack of competence, arguing that this was not a labor dispute but a civil matter. Shock troops supporting Ortega, led by labor union members belonging to the governing FSLN party, gathered outside the main entrance to the La Prensa building, brandishing mortars and loudspeakers, in demand for the rehiring of the distributors. News radio stations are disappearing little by little; however, while a group of stations is struggling to survive the official broadcasters are enjoying huge investments and their programs are aired full of official announcements. In Managua the closure was reported of nearly 20 news radio stations, while inland the situation is even more suffocating, as no government official has the autonomy to place advertising and private enterprise has been receiving less and less. Radio and television stations continue to be neutralized or purchased by people close to the government and news diversity is diminishing. Meanwhile, propaganda for the re-election of Ortega is inundating cities with enormous placards. The Electoral Law prohibits this kind of propaganda prior to a political campaign, but despite that it is being done, putting Ortega’s face, party slogans and the FSLN polling station number on the placards. President Ortega’s rhetoric against the independent media has lessened as the elections approach. In an interview in late August with the Russian television channel RT he said that he is waging a battle against the news media, that “the enemy has it, and it is powerful.” However, he said he was pleased that it is “a tool that we also have at our disposal.” There has been a very slight opening up of official information about the Leptospirosis epidemic, which has cost the lives of 16 people, in contrast to the lack of information supplied by the government about the H1N1 virus that swept the country last year. The official news embargo on news media continues. The boycott of independent media persists. At the swearing-in of liberal former vice president Alfredo Gómez Urcuyo as a member of the lower house of the National Assembly, officials of the Supreme Electoral Council stymied the work of the local press by preventing reporters with independent media from covering the event. Allowed into the chamber were only reporters working for media supporting the governing Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), such as Nueva Radio Ya radio station and Canal 4 and Canal 8 television channels. When reporters from independent media tried to go in security guards shut the doors and said they had orders not to let them enter. Among the media not able to enter were La Prensa, El Nuevo Diario, Canal 2, Canal 11 and Radio Corporación. The same thing occurred on October 28, when the Supreme Electoral Council called presidential and National Assembly general elections for November 2011 without inviting in independent media, which in spite of having turned up for the event were not allowed to enter the building.