The National Assembly approved this Thursday, March 17, the Cancellation of the legal status of 25 private non-profit organizations, leaving the beneficiaries of the social projects of these organizations in limbo. The sudden action with no recourse, increases the list of 114 NGOs already shuttered on fabricated catch-all charges between November 2018 and February 2022.
The organizations and associations canceled this Thursday included: Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development (Funides), Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation for Reconciliation and Democracy (FVBCh), Grupo Cívico Etica y Transparencia, Association Voces Vitales Nicaragua, Fundacion Libertad, March 8th Women’s Collective Association, Central American College Alumni Scholarship Fund Foundation (Fobeca), Local Development Fund Association (FDL) and Operation Sonrisa Nicaragua Association (OSN).
Also on the list are: the Association of Nicaraguan Journalists (APN), the Center for Justice and Human Rights Association of the Atlantic Coast (Cejudhcan), the Center for the Prevention of Violence Association (Ceprev), the Foundation Agora Partnerships, Foundation for the Autonomy and Development of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua (FADCANIC), Alexander Von Humboldt Center for the Promotion of Territorial Development and Environmental Management and the Nicaraguan Women’s Forum Association.
In addition, the Nicaraguan Youth Entrepreneurs Civic Association, the Nicaraguan Harvard Club Association, the Nicaraguan Human Dignity Foundation, the Matagalpa Social Club, the Citizen Crusade for Democracy Foundation, the Kolping-Nicaragua Foundation, the Institute Foundation for Observation for Democracy and Human Rights (IDH), the Christian Center for Human Rights Association (CCDH) and the Nicaraguan Democratic Civic Association (ACDN).
The Regime’s Argument
The decree —published on the website of the National Assembly— was presented by the vice president of the Commission for Peace, Defense and Governance, deputy Filiberto Rodriguez; who in the statement of reasons indicates that, on March 15, the head of the Department of Registration and Control of Non-Profit Associations, of the Ministry of the Interior (Migob), Franya Urey Blandon, asked the Assembly to cancel the 25 associations.
According to Rodríguez, the 25 NGOs failed to submit their financial statements to Migob “according to the fiscal periods with a detailed breakdown of income, expenses, balance, and details of donations, (origin, provenance, and final beneficiary)”. He claimed such failure violates the regulations of the Law against Money Laundering and “promotes a lack of transparency in the administration of funds.”
Another of the remarks made by Deputy Rodríguez is that allegedly the NGOs did not report to Migob who makes up their boards of directors, previous donations from abroad and identity documents of their funders. Situations that, the legislator points out, “have hindered the control and surveillance” of the regulatory entity and supposedly show that said NGOs “have carried out their activities outside the law and acted against express law.”
The arguments of deputy Rodríguez and the Migob are the same ones that have been used in the last three years to cancel the legal status of more than a hundred organizations, foundations and associations of civil society that promoted the social, political, economic development of human rights, democracy, education, and health in Nicaragua.
However, the dissolution of these organizations occurred in a context of repression and reprisals that emerged after the 2018 protests and worsened in 2021, when the regime faced an electoral landscape where it eliminated political competition and secured its fourth consecutive term.
Leaders of previously canceled associations have indicated that they repeatedly presented their records to Migob, but the institution refused to accept them and kept demanding new documents. Until finally, the person in charge of the Department of Registration and Control of Non-Profit Civil Associations of Migob asked the National Assembly to cancel the organizations.
The final blow
In May 2021, the Ortega regime began a witch-hunt against the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, after Cristiana Chamorro Barrios, former president of the foundation, agreed to run to be the opposition’s presidential candidate and that the polls placed her as the most popular candidate. Chamorro and three other NGO officials were imprisoned and sentenced in a political trial for the alleged crime of money laundering.
The directors of Funides were also persecuted by the Ortega regime. In June 2021, the Police raided the homes of several members of its board of directors and the Prosecutor’s Office summoned several of its workers to testify, since the NGO was allegedly being investigated. Although the authorities never clarified the reasons for the investigation, finally the former director of Funides, Juan Sebastian Chamorro —who also aspired to the presidency— was sentenced in a political trial for the alleged crime of conspiracy.
Meanwhile, associations such as Ethics and Transparency, the Humboldt Center, and the Association of Journalists of Nicaragua had lowered their media profile, in an attempt to evade the blows of the regime and to be able to preserve their legal status, but in the end the axe also fell on them.