Simon Ticehurst, Oxfam’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, expressed regret at the Ortega-Murillo government’s decision to suspend the organization’s authorization to operate in the country. According to Ticehurst, Oxfam was working with 56 local NGOs on different projects of humanitarian aid, human rights ecological agricultural production, and environmental protection. These projects benefitted 129,705 Nicaraguans.
“We have proceeded to close the offices and turn over all our accounting records, as the resolution established. We’ve been working in Nicaragua for 40 years, and we’ve always respected the national laws,” Ticehurst affirmed. He spoke from Mexico, in a telephone interview with Confidencial.
The regional director declared that he “greatly” regretted the government’s decision, “because we’ve wanted to continue operating, although the situation in the country is difficult.” He indicated that Oxfam transferred 4.5 million Euros (US $5,286,917) to Nicaragua last year.
“It’s not the first time we’ve had differences with the government, but (previously) we’ve been able to resolve them. In fact, we have the ability to present everything the government asks us to. We don’t feel there’s any reason [for canceling our status]. We weren’t operating illegally, so we feel the measure taken towards Oxfam is an injustice, especially towards the organizations we support in Nicaragua,” he expressed.
The government’s cancellation of the legal status of six NGOs based in the US and Europe will affect hundreds of Nicaraguan families who were beneficiaries of the disaster prevention and democratic rights projects they promoted all over the country, especially in the Caribbean.
The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI); the International Republican Institute (IRI); Oxfam Intermón; Oxfam Ibis; Diakonia; and Helping Hands The Warren William Pagel, M.D. Foundation, were all canceled on August 16. The Interior Ministry’s cancellation resolution alleged that the organizations were “hindering” their “control and surveillance” functions by not reporting their financial details and failing to comply with other legal requirements for receiving donations.
Interior Ministry refused to receive their information
The Department of Registry and Control of Associations resolved on August 16 to cancel the legal status and permanent registration number of the six organizations. The resolution, formalized by its publication in Nicaragua’s Official Daily Gazette, named the six organizations above, which worked on topics of democratic rights and social development.
“The six NGOs hindered the Department of Registry and Control of Association’s control and surveillance functions. The regulating body was unable to identify the legal representatives, the directive boards, the address and administration of the organization’s funds. The execution of the latter is unknown or if such execution was in accordance with the goals and objectives for which their registration in Nicaragua was authorized,” the document states.
Nonetheless, Ticehurst insisted, “we have all the information they requested.” He added that on several occasions they attempted to deliver these documents to the Interior Ministry, but the Ministry never agreed to receive them.
Since the 2018 social protests, the Nicaraguan government has been preparing the groundwork for a gradual closing of the NGOs. When the civil society organizations brought in the documentation required by the Interior Ministry, it was consistently rejected, according to complaints from a number of organizational representatives.
Oxfam’s regional director declared that all the reports and documents are available, because “they’re not secret”, and that the organization is willing to share them.
Ticehurst said that Oxfam found out about the cancellation of their status when it was published in the Gazette. There was never any formal communication from the Nicaraguan government. Regarding Oxfam’s assets in Nicaragua, he stated that “given the short time (72 hours) they gave us to leave the country,” they opted to donate their equipment and all materials they could, as established in their own statutes.
They hope to continue collaborating
In addition, Ticehurst expressed hopes for “some dialogue that would permit us to be able to work in Nicaragua in the future, under other conditions.” Meanwhile, they’ll try to weigh options and evaluate the possibility of continuing to support the Nicaraguan people, both inside and outside the national territory.
“We imagine there can be difficult situations, such as drought or tropical storms, that affect the Caribbean. In other years, we’ve reacted and supported the population, together with the government (…). There are also thousands of people in Costa Rica in need of support, who were forced to leave as refugees. We hope to see how we can help with all this,” he specified.
The work of this organization in Nicaragua promoted, “small and medium producers’ initiatives for ecological agricultural production. These initiatives allowed them to improve their food security and nutrition, especially in territories affected by poverty and climate change.”
In the same way, the organizations trained young men and women, mainly in the rural areas, “to seek novel initiatives to get out of poverty, including the sustainable use of the natural resources.”
Finally, the organization’s projects contributed to disaster prevention by training brigades at a community, municipal and national level, through coordination with the National System for Disaster Prevention in the most vulnerable territories.