Maria Lilly Delgado is a journalist with over 28 years of professional experience. Among other things, she’s distinguished herself for her interest in passing on to her colleagues the knowledge of journalism she’s gained, and the ethics of that profession. She did so through occasional workshops she conducted, in conjunction with the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation. Because of that, she’s now under investigation by the Ortega regime’s Public Prosecutor’s office.
On Tuesday, May 25th Delgado received a summons to appear before the Prosecutor as a witness. When she demanded that her lawyer be present in the room with her, she suddenly found herself “implicated” and “under investigation”.
In an interview broadcast on the online Nicaraguan news program Esta Semana, Delgado recalled her role facilitating workshops for other Nicaraguan journalists. She has also volunteered as a reviewer of work under consideration for the Pedro Joaquin Chamorro Award for Excellence in Journalism. The latter participation was completely without monetary compensation.
Maria Lilly Delgado currently works as a freelance journalist. Due to her vast experience, she also serves as correspondent for the well-known Spanish language station Univision. “My only ties (to the Foundation) were the individual workshops I held, in audiovisual production and professional ethics,” the journalist asserted.
“I don’t know what other thing they could be investigating (…) This is a legitimate professional service. It’s not a crime to offer journalists professional training; it’s not a crime to work towards modernizing the media,” Delgado stated during her interview.
Maria Lilly Delgado is one of nineteen journalists summoned to testify before the Prosecutor since May 25. All are being interviewed as part of an investigation of the VBC Foundation the regime has ordered. The investigation appears to be targeting the Foundation’s director and current presidential candidate Cristiana Chamorro for alleged money laundering. However, the Prosecution has refused to reveal their reasons for questioning the journalists.
Delgado was called in twice. Her second summons was on May 28. On that date, she informed journalists waiting for her at the exit, that she was now an “accused” party. She stated that the Prosecutor’s office had wanted her to sign a declaration that didn’t accurately reflect her words.
The regime’s “selective justice”
Two weeks ago, Delgado and two other journalists published the investigative report, “The Ortega-Murillo regime’s selective justice”. The report reveals how the Prosecutor’s Office – where she’s now being investigated – worked to fabricate hundreds of pieces of false evidence. These were used to imprison opponents of the regime who participated in the April 2018 protests.
Delgado was asked if she thought the current investigation of her was a form of vengeance for that report. She replied that she couldn’t be certain, noting that her role in the report was limited to explaining the events. The accusations against the Public Prosecutor’s office were leveled by former Guatemalan Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz, based on the cases of released political prisoners.
“What I can tell you is that we based ourselves on the facts to write that special report, called “The tracks of impunity”. It seeks to contribute to the country’s historic memory. The report was published 15 days ago, on May 14. Today I’m being investigated for mishandling funds. I don’t know anything about money laundering; I’m not an employee of the Foundation,” declared Delgado.
The journalist assured that she won’t remain silent about denouncing the government’s arbitrary actions in the country. The Ortega regime has spearheaded a repressive escalation that’s passed through a number of phases. It intensified after April 2018, when thousands of Nicaraguans took to the streets to demand the departure of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.
As a result of the violence unleashed against the protesters, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts, a branch of the OAS, estimated a death toll of at least 328 people. Most lost their lives due to the armed actions of the police and paramilitary against the general population in the demonstrations.
“I’ve stated clearly that this accusation is completely arbitrary. I don’t handle the Foundation’s funds. I’m not a functionary of the Foundation. I’m a journalism professional,” Maria Lilly Delgado emphasized.
Former employees of the Violeta Barrios Foundation detained
After Delgado left her second interview on May 28, the regime’s police and paramilitary abducted two former employees of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation. Walter Gomez, former Foundation administrator, and Marcos Fletes, the Foundation’s accountant, were kidnapped. Their whereabouts remained unknown until the next day, Saturday May 29, when authorities disclosed that they’d been sent before the Tenth District Penal Court for a “special hearing on the protection of Constitutional guarantees”.
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“During the hearing, the District Attorney, Jean Dylan Rivas Falcon, told the court that, due to the seriousness of the charges levied, since they involve an accusation of laundering of money, goods and assets, a type of organized crime, there existed the probability that the accused would attempt to evade justice and hinder the investigation. As such, he asked that the period of detention for the accused under investigation be increased to ninety days,” according to the statement issued by the Court.
The two former Foundation employees could now face 90 days in jail, until August 26, with no formal charges. The Ortega prosecutors insist they’ll continue investigations of the Violeta Barrios Chamorro Foundation.