Sandinistas strip magistrate’s immunity

Opposition cries foul, argues the whole case is systematic of Nicaragua’s institutional crisis

(posted May 29, 1:15 p.m.)- The Sandinista-dominated National Assembly sidestepped legal protocol this morning to unilaterally strip de facto substitute electoral magistrate Julio César Osuna of his legal immunity to face criminal charges related to organized crime. The Sandinistas then voted unilaterally to remove Osuna from his post as a substitute magistrate in the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE).

Despite his alleged immunity, Osuna, a member of the Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC), was arrested Sunday and charged yesterday with organized crime, drug trafficking, money laundering and falsification of state documents. He has been accused of selling fake Nicaraguan cédulas (state IDs) to international drug traffickers for $1,500 each.

Lawmakers inside the National Assembly can't even agree whether Osuna is a government employee (photo/ Tim Rogers)

The legal proceedings against Osuna left Sandinista lawmakers scrambling this morning to “legalize” something that was already happening.

“No one can claim immunity to avoid investigation and accusations of organized crime,” Castro said, arguing that legal protocol should be ignored to strip Osuna of his immunity by “emergency procedure.”

Opposition lawmakers argued that the National Assembly can’t strip Osuna of his immunity because his immunity expired two years ago, when his constitutional term limit as magistrate ended.

Congressman Victor Hugo Tinoco argued that in addition to the threat of organized crime and narco-trafficking, Nicaragua also faces a series “strategic threat” of “dynastic authoritarianism” – such as that demonstrated by today’s move by the Sandinistas to sidestep legal procedures created to safeguard against such unilateral actions.

The 24 opposition lawmakers abstained from today’s voting. They insist National Assembly has no authority to strip Osuna of his immunity because he doesn’t have any, and can’t remove him from his post as magistrate because his term already expired.

 Opposition congressman Eliseo Núñez said the whole case shows how Nicaragua’s institutional crisis is transcending the halls of politics and affecting the entire country.

“How is it possible that thousands of Nicaraguans can’t get their cédulas, but a drug trafficker with a thousand dollars in his pocket can get one in a matter of days?” Núñez demanded.

Read full story in tomorrow’s Nicaragua Dispatch