Report augurs change in US relations

State Department’s human rights report appears to set stage for cancelation of transparency waiver

After winning reelection in a voting process that was “seriously flawed,” President Daniel Ortega’s “increasingly authoritarian” government now wields single-party control over all branches of government, according to the U.S. State Department’s Report on Human Rights for 2011, released today.

That’s the good news. The rest of the report is a bit disquieting.

“The principal human rights abuses during the year were restrictions on citizens’ right to vote, violence against women, and police abuse of suspects during arrest and detention,” reads the executive summary of the U.S.’ country report for Nicaragua.

Other “significant human rights abuses” mentioned in the preamble include, “Occasional unlawful killings by security forces; harsh and overcrowded prison conditions; arbitrary and lengthy pretrial detention; widespread corruption and politicization of the membership and actions of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ), and other government organs, as well as a lack of respect for the rule of law by these bodies; withholding of accreditation from election-monitoring nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); and erosion of freedom of speech and press, including government intimidation and harassment of journalists and independent media. There were also reports of corrupt practices; government harassment and intimidation of NGOs; trafficking in persons; discrimination against ethnic minorities and indigenous persons and communities; societal discrimination against and abuse of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals; discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS; and violations of trade union rights.”

Furthermore, the report says, “impunity was a widespread problem” and Sandinista government officials “frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.”

Needless to say, the State Department’s report is not exactly Visit Nicaragua tourism-brochure material.

It is, however, telling of the increasingly strained relations between the United States and Nicaragua. And sections of the report—specifically Section 4: Official Corruption and Government Transparency—provide a foreboding argument for the U.S. to cancel its transparency waiver, an announcement that’s expected to be made public in the next few weeks.

“In the executive branch, officials dispensed funds outside the normal budgetary process controlled by the legislature,” the report reads. “Officials drew funds from economic and developmental assistance loaned by the Venezuela-led Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) with the claim that funds were part of a joint venture between the state-owned oil companies of Venezuela and Nicaragua. Media reported that ALBA-funded contracts were awarded to companies with ties to the Ortega family and noted that the funds from Venezuela, which totaled approximately $500 million annually, served as a separate budget tightly controlled by the FSLN without public oversight.”

The report also criticizes the lack of transparency in the judicial system, saying, “The courts remained particularly susceptible to bribes, manipulation, and other forms of corruption, especially by political parties and drug cartels, and there were reports that politics influenced CSJ rulings. There were reported cases of drug traffickers being declared innocent by corrupt judges, particularly in Granada.”  (Yeah Granada!)

CSE president Roberto Rivas also got a special shout out for his “numerous corrupt practices,” including “alleged involvement in fraud and embezzlement of public funds.”

Taken as a whole, Section 4 of the State Department’s report does not augur well for the future of Nicaragua’s transparency waiver.

Perhaps even more worrisome, however, is the short section on property restitution.

“The government regularly failed to enforce court orders with respect to seizure, restitution, or compensation of private property,” the report reads. “Illegal land seizures increased during the year, including reports of government seizure without due process or fair compensation.”

Though the State Department report doesn’t directly accuse the Sandinista government of seizing U.S. citizen properties, it’s short reprimand doesn’t bode too well for the property waiver either.

In short, the State Department’s report on Nicaragua is compelling evidence that the die has been cast. Washington’s official position towards Nicaragua has changed and now the policy changes will start to reveal themselves as well.

The full report can be read here.

  • Dennis McCormick

    Sad. Sounds like the ending of Animal Farm.

  • Daniel M.

    Tim,

    Sounds like you should of just posted the U.S. State Department report instead of writing and inserting all those quotes. To me it just sounds like you are peddling the State Departments never ending BS reports about governments they dont like. At least what you could have done is compare the situation in Nicaragua with that in Honduras, where the US basically supported the coup and coup government, and which is now one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Not to mention it is becoming another US military outpost like Colombia.

    BTW, I read your article in the “minnpost”:

    http://www.minnpost.com/global-post/2012/05/nicaragua%E2%80%99s-marxist-government-gets-religion-free-trade-zones

    pretty good overall, but this!:

    “Though the first Sandinista leadership captained Nicaragua’s economy to the bottom of the sea in the 1980s, the former Marxists have bucked the odds the second time around.”

    Please! You could have at least given some context to the 80s?! Does ‘war’ and ’embargo’ ring a bell? Secondly, when you speak about hyperinflation, you could have also given a little more context. Inflation can artificially come about for different reasons, like retailers hording products.

    The way you put things into context seems like the government in the 80’s intentionally drove the economy into the sea while championing hyperinflation. Thank you for you work on reporting on Nicaragua, it is very valuable, but please remember to give more accurate historical and economic context.

  • Carla Chamorro

    Told you …!
    And this is just the start, wait for the shellacking Obama will receive in the coming election plus the hard core Republicans in Senate and Congress plus the Tea Party plus the Cuban Americans in Govt like Ileana and Marco NOT only Ortega is out but also the clowns in Alba from Castro to Chavez. God bless the United States !

  • http://nope Miss Sunshine

    I live for many years in Nicaragua and why can I not see what the USA claims to see.
    1) I don’t believe that Nicadispatch keeps on getting harassed?
    2)Single party control over all government branches due to the fact that the opposition got trashed by the FSLN. Nicaraguans votes don’t count anymore? Or is it as simple to say that they were fraudulent. If yes, why is there no revolt by the public. We all know that they have the guts to do it. In contrast, the public are actually backing the FSLN.
    3) overcrowded prisons : since when is it this an issue for the USA that in a 3rd world country the prisons are overcrowded.
    4) Nicaragua has some issues but the Nicaraguans need to solve that. I know, me too, I would like to see that happen a little faster but…
    5) Seriously, can I see the Human Rights report on the USA. This will make Nicaragua look like an angel.

    “I know I’m not perfect
    -and I don’t live to be-
    but before you start pointing fingers…
    make sure you hands are clean!” by B. Marley

    I understand US geopolitics but morally I can not comprehend it!

  • Pedro Arauz

    If Ortega and cronies have some dignity left in the (lol) they should severe relation with the US and expel the US Ambassador in Managua at once otherwise they will only prove once more how the very few are using politics to get the much “hated” green backs….

  • Mela Pellas

    From what Arce, Cabezas and Ramos had to say about the waivers, me thinks the USA should prepare itself for not getting any more aid from Nicaragua. What a bunch of a**holes sorround Ortega, starting with him. While the Frente is in power, Nicaragua is doomed.

  • vocisof depeop

    In regards to this publication which I do not doubt that it has some validity to it, I would like to express the following giving my personal and free expression point of view is that for the commitity of human rights to make this observation they should also make an analysis on the cause of poverty and delay of development of families, kids and seniors in Nicaragua which leads back to the regan administration on which these affected communities which were never compensated by the international courts for damages cause directly and indirectly from the (r)igan administration. Therefore in my opinion as a person affected from these catastrophes caused by this administration I am waiting for real human rights advocacy to compensate the damages done to me.