Nicaragua is a place riddled with laws many don’t understand, as the country continues to break headlines with its shocking customs diminishing what the world knows as fundamental human rights. Wednesday night, Nicaragua’s parliament voted to shut down 50 non-governmental organizations.
As citizens continue to challenge the dictatorship, they’re left feeling everything but heard as their parliament, which is dominated by allies of President Daniel Ortega. The initial proposal to shut down the NGOs was brought before parliament by Filiberto Rodríguez, a lawmaker from President Ortega’s party. In his presentation, Rodríguez argued that the “50 associations do not want to comply with the law. They want to violate the law.”
The Coen Foundation, the social arm of a robust business group in Central America, and the foundation of Nicaraguan writer and former Vice President Sergio Ramirez, currently in exile, were among the NGOs closed on Wednesday. According to parliament’s decision, the assets of each group go into the hands of the state.
Mr. Ortega’s government has not just been slammed by international rights groups but also by his own former officials. On Wednesday, the NGOs shut down were groups defending human rights, providing medical help, and promoting educational projects. Most of the groups being shut down have publicly criticized the government. These groups range from representing dental surgeons to one promoting girls’ rights. Worldwide organizations such as the UN expressed their concern in a decree on Twitter.
Marcos Carmona, who heads the Permanent Commission on Human Rights, one of the organizations affected by the measure, said, “There is no will from the government to have organizations… documenting human rights violations.” This quote accentuates how alone and lost the people of Nicaragua are under a dictatorship that seems to actively steal the voices of those not only needing but begging to be heard.
pro-government lawmaker Wilfredo Navarro claimed, “Many of these NGOs, which also operate as microfinance companies and have lucrative activities, can perfectly continue to operate under the regulation of the Ministry of Commerce,”
Representatives from several NGOs were shut down by prior orders stating they sought to hand in the required documents but were rejected by the authorities. Ortega’s opposers believe the closures are part of a broader crackdown on anybody who challenges the president, which has already resulted in the imprisonment of many lawmakers who wanted to run against Ortega in November’s election. More than two dozen arrested have now been sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
Nicaraguan authorities have shut down approximately 163 NGOs since mass protests broke out against Ortega’s government in 2018. The country has been faced with a political crisis ever since.