The newspaper La Prensa, the oldest in Nicaragua and critical of the government of Daniel Ortega, denounced on Monday, August 22, that Nicaraguan authorities executed a “de facto confiscation” of its assets, a year after the National Police forcibly occupied its facilities and arrested its general manager, Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro.
“For several days now, operators of the regime have been carrying out construction works and moving some of the machinery and equipment. With these actions the Ortega Murillo regime implements a de facto confiscation of the assets of the industrial plant of Editorial La Prensa,” reported the media outlet, which is now only published digitally.
The newspaper stressed that the Nicaraguan Constitution prohibits confiscation, and that the State can only take private property when the law allows it, albeit with prior and fair compensation for those affected.
Article 44 of the Nicaraguan Constitution “guarantees the right to private property and the instruments and means of production.” It also prohibits “the confiscation of property” and establishes that officials who violate this regulation will be held responsible for the damages caused.
The La Prensa building has been occupied by the Police since August 13, 2021. The dictatorship has also raided and confiscated the editorial offices of Confidencial, Esta Semana and channel 100% Noticias.
Value of almost ten million dollars
According to La Prensa, whose newsroom staff was forced into exile in July following the arrest of two employees, its assets “at the time of confiscation were worth close to 10 million dollars.”
“In February 2021, an appraisal carried out to buy an insurance policy, took into account the physical state of the real estate, that is, civil engineering works and/or buildings and valued them at 1.84 million dollars. This includes offices, warehouses, parking, unloading area and other construction works,” according to the newspaper.
The machinery and equipment had an acquisition cost of 14.48 million dollars, but when considering the depreciation for years of use, it was calculated at 6.04 million dollars. “The value of the construction, added to that of the machinery and equipment totals 7.89 million dollars. But to that amount we have to add the value of the land, which is around 1.80 million dollars. Therefore, the total amount of assets confiscated from the company reaches 9.68 million dollars,” reported La Prensa.
The newspaper emphasized that among the confiscated assets are a rotary printer worth 2.1 million dollars and a commercial printing press worth 3.89 million dollars, with the capacity to print, bind or gum “books, pamphlets, brochures, leaflets, and any other printer material, including electoral ballots.”
“What use will be given to that machinery? asked La Prensa, with less than three months to go before the municipal elections, for which specific ballots will need to be printed for Nicaragua’s 153 municipalities.
Putting an end to 96 years of history
“The Ortega Murillo regime is trying to put an end to 96 years of history of the dean of national journalism by dismantling the building that houses it,” points out Nicaragua’s most iconic media outlet.
In order to occupy the facilities of La Prensa, located in an industrial zone in the north of Managua, the Nicaraguan authorities alleged that the media supposedly was used to commit crimes of “customs fraud, money, goods and assets laundering.”
Last April, Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro, nephew-in-law of former president Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, who defeated Ortega in the 1990 elections, was sentenced to nine years in prison for the alleged crime of “money laundering.”
La Prensa’s denunciation comes in the context of the socio-political crisis that Nicaragua has been experiencing since April 2018 and which, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), has left at least 355 people dead —of which Ortega has admitted 200–, more than 200,000 exiled, and 190+ current political prisoners, including many opposition leaders.
According to the Independent Journalists and Communicators of Nicaragua movement, some 120 journalists, not including the support staff of La Prensa, has opted for exile since the beginning of the crisis.