Report to the 72nd General Assembly

Mexico City, Mexico

October 13 – 17, 2016


The government's authoritarianism has increased in this period, giving rise to greater risk for press freedom and democracy.

Not only is there no access to public information but the few independent media have not been allowed to cover parades on public holidays and there are no longer press conferences being given by any state body. All officials, including members of Congress of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), are prohibited from speaking, making comments or answering questions about the purchase of 50 military tanks that the government allegedly purchased from Russia for $80 million.

There are increasingly fewer independent media, just one open television channel and some cable ones.

Official advertising is handled as if it were private by those holding power, only in their media and above all on the highway signs that abound with the picture of the President and his wife, today a candidate for the Vice Presidency.

What is of most concern is the aggravating political situation. President Daniel Ortega took full control of all the powers of state, including the Supreme Electoral Council, ahead of the November 6 elections.

Ortega's government has expelled 14 prominent people who came to the country to give conferences on human rights or any other topic not to the regime's liking, such as the director of Freedom House, Carlos Ponce, two United States customs officials who came to accredit an export company and Dr. Evans Ellis, a researcher with the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College. There was also produced the detention and expulsion of several environmentalists belonging to the Honduran environment Veda Verde organization Mesomericana Good Living caravan, left alone on a bridge on the border with Honduras at midnight.

In the session of Congress in which Ortega's seventh candidacy was announced he declared that there will be no electoral overview and accused observers of being good-for-nothings and interventionists, an allusion to representatives of the OAS, European Union and Carter Center, and he asked the Nicaraguan ambassador to the OAS to request the expulsion of Secretary General Luis Almagro. Ortega named his wife, Rosario Murillo, as candidate for the Vice Presidency and he has the power to name all his party's candidates for Congress.

The Supreme Court's Constitutional Courtroom in sentence number 299 of June 8 divested Eduardo Montealegre of legal representation of the Independent Liberal Party (PLI), a party that headed an anti-Ortega coalition. Before this another party had been divested, the ALN, which was the second force in the elections that Ortega won in 2006.

On July 29 28 Congressmen of the PLI were dismissed by the Supreme Electoral Council for having called for not to vote. At a press conference they declared that this was "a matter without precedent in the history of Nicaragua and with it the Daniel Ortega regime is making a coup d'état against the Legislative Branch."

One month before the elections of the five main participating parties there has not been seen any meeting or indication of the electoral campaign, not even of Ortega's FSLN party. Solely the candidate of the Constitutionalist Liberal Party, a former anti-Sandinista guerrilla commander, is conducting a campaign in the areas where that group was strong. The other candidates for the presidency are totally unknown by the people.

The United States Congress is discussing the "Nica Act" bill which would prohibit U.S. representatives in multilateral financial bodies, BID, BM, FMI, from voting in favor of Nicaragua to grant soft loans. A member of the State Department declared before a U.S. Chamber of Representatives committee that all this makes one think that Ortega is taking Nicaragua to a state with just one party.

There were two government attempts to further close the circle of control. The first was through the Supreme Electoral Council which in an ethics ruling sought to control and impede denunciations of electoral mockery or a call to abstention to "all social communicators, owner, editors and publishers, Web sites and social media ... and citizens in general." The government annulled the regulation following protests by the media.

The government also moved ahead against Evangelical and Catholic religious missions that come to the country to give material support and made as a condition for them to be authorized to enter Nicaragua that they must register themselves.

On October 7 the editor of Confidencial, Carlos Fernando Chamorro, publicly denounced before the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH) acts of intimidation and political spying on the part of members of the Army and of the Sandinista Front.

Chamorro said that two Confidencial employees – one in the administrative area and the other in the technical area – were separately required by a Nicaraguan Army officer and political operators of the government party to seek to gather information about the running of this independent newspaper, as well as its news security, the functioning of the system, also required were the passwords to access the paper's Web site.

"The two Confidencial employees roundly rejected the attempt of the official agents to subject them to intimidation and refused to give them the information sought through illegal and immoral means," Chamorro declared.