After a week of judicial pressure on independent journalism and Cristiana Chamorro, former president of the Violeta Barrios Chamorro Foundation (FVBCh), things got worse on Friday night.
At nine o’clock in the evening, Cristiana, a presidential candidate herself, denounced the kidnapping of Walter Gomez and Marcos Fletes, former financial officer, and accountant of that organization, respectively.
The kidnapping occurred within the framework of the ongoing investigation that the Ortega regime carries out since May 21st against Chamorro and the Foundation for alleged money laundering.
“Evil dictatorships act at night to scare, to intimidate,” said Chamorro, offering details about the abduction of Gomez and Fletes. Gomez was taken to the infamous El Chipote interrogation jail, confirmed by his family. Meanwhile, Fletes’ whereabouts were still unknown at press time.
According to the details reported by Chamorro, Gomez was the subject of a police operation carried out at his home in Colonia El Periodista in Managua. His wife told him that a police officer approached their home and touched a window to then demand that the door be opened. Then they entered and took him away, while a child watched in horror at what was happening.
Fletes was abducted on a street when he was going to another foundation’s offices. A group of people surrounded and then kidnapped him. The surprise arrests mark a hardening of the position of Ortega, whose investigation seems focused on achieving the inhibition of Chamorro, in addition to carrying out a dirty campaign against the critical media.
Prosecutor’s Office will continue to summon journalists
The Attorney General’s Office published a statement for the third day in a row. It summarizes the day of questioning journalists and former employees of the Foundation -more than 20 so far. They also state they will continue to “call all those people who appear as “beneficiaries” of the FVBCh.
In the same statement, the authorities contradicted themselves, saying they recognize “the work carried out by the men and women of the press. We respect the rights and freedom of expression in accordance with what is established in the Constitution.”
This official position contrasts with the complaints from journalists who have questioned the political intention of the authorities in the investigation process. Likewise, they point out that this judicial body is accused by international organizations of fabricating cases against government opponents.
Appearing before the media on Friday, journalist Maria Lilly Delgado also questioned the Ortega prosecutors’ intentions. The Univision correspondent said the prosecutor informed her that her status has changed from a “witness” to “under investigation” along with two former FVBCH employees, Lourdes Arróliga and Guillermo Medrano. They were told this took place because they demanded the presence of their attorneys during questioning. The next punitive step would be the freezing of their bank accounts.
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Chamorro said last night that she was currently focused on defending her former colleagues from the FVBCh and Nicaraguan journalism, investigated for money laundering, although the money has its origin in international cooperation and USAID itself, the source of the financing, denied that any crime was committed.
“It is a revenge by Daniel Ortega against my mother’s legacy. He wants to prevent Nicaraguans from voting and assure there is no transfer to democracy,” she said.
The journalist recalled that the Ministry of the Interior gave the Foundation certificates of compliance between 2015 and 2018 and that now, when asking for explanations of why this investigation, they told her they had been wrong, which she said is not very credible. The Foundation closed operations last February, refusing to submit to the Foreign Agents Regulation Law, a repressive measure by the Ortega regime to control NGO financing.
“I don’t know what could happen tomorrow: if they will disqualify me. However, even if they do, I will continue to say yes to Nicaragua,” announced the candidate. Chamorro added that she will contact the authorities of Ciudadanos por la Libertad (CxL) to find out if it is true they are open to the registration of independent candidates, and agree on some points with them.
UN Human Rights Office concern
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights) expressed its “deep concern” over recent events on Friday morning, through its spokesperson Marta Hurtado.
Hurtado referred to the recent approval of the punitive Ortega electoral reform. Additionally, she noted the attempt to criminalize independent journalists in the case initiated by the Ministry of the Interior and the Public Ministry of Nicaragua against the FVBCh, that was chaired by Cristiana Chamorro, who considers the accusations of “money laundering” a “sham” to disqualify her candidacy.
“Now Chamorro runs the risk of being criminally convicted and of being disqualified as a candidate,” noted the UN Human Rights office.
Hurtado said that on May 19th the authorities announced a criminal investigation against one of the main presidential candidates.
“The investigation is based on the ‘Law against money laundering, terrorist financing and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction’ adopted in July 2018. This law, drafted in excessively broad terms, has generally raised the concern it can be used to silence dissident voices,” said Hurtado.
Hurtado said The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights calls on the Nicaraguan government “to stop all harassment – including judicial harassment – against members of the opposition and journalists.”