Daniel Ortega regime opened Nicaragua’s doors to two members of former Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez’s inner circle, both of whom are under investigation on corruption charges: former Secretary to the President, Ebal Jair Diaz Lupian, and former Private Secretary Ricardo Leonel Cardona.
The Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry under the Ortega Government’s direct control, granted Nicaraguan citizenship to both Cardona and Diaz, according to the official La Gaceta, published on June 17th.
Applications from both former Honduran officials were approved by the deputy Immigration director, major Pablo Jose Morales Luna, less than a month after Hernandez was extradited to the US on drug trafficking charges.
The main argument for granting Diaz - the former Honduran leader’s right-hand man - citizenship, was that he is “Central American and has residency,” in Nicaragua.
In Cardona’s case, the Nicaraguan authorities argued that he had a permanent residency card and that he was living in the country.
However, looking at the documents published in La Gaceta, Immigration, a dependency of the Ministry of Interior hid information that would help determine whether both men had met the requirements established in Immigration Law.
The authorities didn’t specify how many years they’d been living in Nicaragua. According to Nicaraguan legislation, Central Americans need to be living on national territory for at least two years; however, Hernandez left power in late January, which would mean that they’ve only been here six months.
Diaz, 49, is a former evangelical pastor, and already holds two nationalities according to El Heraldo newspaper: Mexican and Honduran. Now, he also has Nicaraguan citizenship thanks to Ortega. He served as the Executive Secretary as part of the Council of Ministers, between 2014-2017.
“One of the biggest acts of corruption he is being charged with involved the construction of modular homes in the Lomas del Diamante area, south of the capital, to assist those hit by the Eta and Iota hurricanes,” El Heraldo said.
La Prensa de Honduras pointed out that in Cardona’s case, he was reported by the National Anti-Corruption Committee last April for his role as the former minister of the former Secretary of Development and Inclusion. Damage to the State was figured at over $7 million USD.
The former Honduran officials' case joins other fugitives charged with corruption in Central America, such as former El Salvadoran presidents Mauricio Funes and Salvador Sanchez Ceren, who Ortega also protected by granting them nationality.
The Ortega regime is using the Immigration Office as a political weapon to favor the dictatorship’s allies and against opposition members and citizens in general. In a recent series published by CONFIDENCIAL, decisions taken by authorities have changed the lives of those who were forced into exile because of the State’s arbitrariness.
Besides taking passports away from citizens, after denying them the renewal of their documents, Immigration authorities are considered responsible for the forced exile of musicians criticizing Ortega. According to lawyer Maria Asuncion Moreno, an academic and member of the Civic Alliance Executive Committee, the Immigration Office has no autonomy.
“The authorities obey orders from the Ministry of Interior, but ever since Ortega came to power, we’ve seen a shift in the concentration of power to El Carmen (the president’s residence and offices) which can be seen in micromanagement. Ortega and Murillo are effectively the heads of Immigration,” Moreno affirmed during a report published in May.