Magistrates Terms Up in Nicaragua: What will Ortega Do?

The government “has not even wanted to discuss the issues” at the negotiating table. “It has not given a signal to be optimistic,” says Jose Pallais.

The government “has not even wanted to discuss the issues” at the negotiating table. “It has not given a signal to be optimistic

11 de abril 2019


As of today, April 10th, the posts expire for more than 20 magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) and the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE). The Ortega-Murillo dictatorship will be able to decide alone if they are changed or their posts extended, given the failure of the national dialogue.

Although the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy proposed addressing the expiration of the periods and the replacement of magistrates at the negotiating table, the Government delegation dismissed it completely. “They argued that there was no hurry in that sense,” said Jose Pallais, a member of the opposition delegation.

The future of these positions was a key issue in the negotiation, since it has to do directly with the demand of justice and democracy of the Civic Alliance and the international community. However, the dictatorship rejected the advancement of elections and outlined a proposal of justice in which it pretends it to be executed by the same police and judicial system that has criminalized the protests.

“Everything was rejected”

“The democracy proposal included the subject of the criteria for the selection of magistrates in the Supreme Electoral Council. Same as those of the Judicial Branch,” said Pallais. “We proposed that these criteria respond to independence, professionalism, and not to partisan interests. But the Government said they did not have to negotiate with us (Civic Alliance). Everything was rejected,” he explained.

Constitutionalist lawyer Gabriel Alvarez assures that, seeing the failure of the dialogue and the rampant refusal of the regime to discuss the issues of justice and democracy, he doubts a lot that Daniel Ortega will accept a “renovation and essential restructuring of the Electoral and Judicial Branches.”

“He has not even wanted to discuss these issues at the dialogue table. It seems to me that he has not given a signal to be optimistic in this regard,” he regretted.

Change “would be favorable”

Alvarez said that, given the current circumstances of the crisis, with the failure of the negotiations, electing magistrates by consensus would be “very propitious” to “begin to create conditions.”

“It would be propitious for the government, in the first place, to demonstrate true political will, to agree on a democratic transition and to satisfy the national demand for justice,” he recommended.

“This is one of the last opportunities for the Government to make profound and total changes, because, for example, the electoral branch is one entity that has been administering electoral frauds. If there are no profound changes, it is an illusion to speak of justice and democracy,” he stressed.

Former magistrate Solis: “It is preferable that they continue”

Former Supreme Court judge, Rafael Solis, who was one of the main political operators of the regime in the Judiciary, affirmed that it is preferable that the judges continue in their positions under an extension, a possibility established in a previous constitutional reform.

The former top Ortega legal advisor sees “consensus” es essential, but also warned about the risk that the regime could name them immediately, through the National Assembly, which is loyal to the dictatorship of Ortega and his Vice President and wife, Rosario Murillo.

“It is preferable that they continue for the time being in office, and that the new magistrates be named in the dialogue by consensus,” stated Solis.

“Even if the Electoral Law is not finished, they should be named in the dialogue. Otherwise, you leave the government, which has 70 [of the 90] legislators, the possibility of appointing the magistrates,” he insisted.

Among the Supreme Court judges whose position expires today are Alba Luz Ramos, Francisco “Chicon” Rosales, Ligia Molina, Juana Mendez, Armengol Cuadra, Yadira Centeno and the same Rafael Solis (who resigned in January), among other incumbents and substitutes.

In the Electoral Branch, the positions that expire are those of the current acting president, Lumberto Campbell; the controversial Roberto Rivas, who “resigned” after the sanctions of the US Global Magnitsky; and the retired military and standing magistrate, Emmett Lang, among other incumbents and substitutes who vacated the posts by resigning or death.

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Wilfredo Miranda Aburto

Periodista. Destaca en cobertura a violaciones de derechos humanos: desplazamiento forzado, tráfico ilegal en territorios indígenas, medio ambiente, conflictos mineros y ejecuciones extrajudiciales. Premio Iberoamericano Rey de España 2018.


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