The purge of the Nicaraguan Judiciary, ordered by the Vice President and spokesperson of the regime Rosario Murillo, has accumulated more than 900 dismissals at the national level in only fifteen days. Among those dismissed are magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ), magistrates of Appeals, directors of areas, judges and secretaries in central and local instances, and also administrative and service personnel from all over the country, sources linked to the Judiciary and four former officials confirmed to CONFIDENCIAL.
In a state institution that has approximately 9000 employees, the sweep has eliminated the jobs of 10% of the personnel, without granting them a letter of dismissal and their corresponding liquidation, labor liabilities, and pension fund.
This sweep in the Judicial Power began on October 24, with the police coup executed by the retired general commissioner, Horacio Rocha, against the president of the CSJ, Alba Luz Ramos, who was evicted from her office and sent to her home.
There are ten (or more) vacancies out of 16 CSJ magistrates
A day after Ramos was dismissed, 80-year-old magistrate Yadira Centeno was also evicted and sent home. Her health is reported to be in “poor” condition following the arrest of her daughter Lucía Flores Centeno, who was imprisoned in the Third Section of the Police, where she is allowed to receive food.
In the following days, magistrates Virgilio Gurdián (75 years old) and Manuel Martínez (81 years old), were not allowed to enter their offices either. Gurdián denied to the digital media Nicaragua Investiga, that he has been dismissed. However, several sources confirmed that he has been notified that he will not be reelected and was allowed to enter his office to remove his belongings. In the case of Martínez, several sources linked to the CSJ assured that due to his age, he was not seen frequently.
With these evictions, there are now at least ten vacant seats in the CSJ, although it is also said that the only magistrates who are coming to the Court are Sandinistas Marvin Aguilar and Juana Méndez.
From October 2022 to date, the dictatorship has already ordered other sweeps in the Judicial Branch, adding up to more than 200 dismissals in different interventions, but none had reached so many employees in all instances throughout the country.
Layoffs in the Judiciary throughout Nicaragua
Various sources linked to the Judiciary confirmed to CONFIDENCIAL that the dismissals extend to different departments and municipalities of the country.
Among the dismissed there are “converted” or long-time Sandinista public employees, and even fierce political commissars of the Government party, and also others identified as liberals and independents.
From different cities it is reported that some officials were asked to arrive at their offices during the holiday granted on November 2 -Day of the Holy Dead-, but when they arrived they were not allowed to enter the building. Some were asked to hand over assigned mobile devices and other personal belongings. Others were required to open their offices or were removed without the right to take any belongings.
Appeals magistrates dismissed in departments
Some of the dismissed magistrates in the departments, documented by CONFIDENCIAL are:
- Martha Quezada Saldaña, of the Court of Appeals of Managua and president of Criminal Chamber Two. Morazán recalled in another publication in X that "Quezada was the one who rejected the process to reverse adoption promoted by Zoilamérica (Ortega Murillo) against Daniel Ortega".
- Adda Vanegas Ramos, of the Criminal Court Specialized in Violence and Adolescent Justice, of the Court of Appeals of Managua. Along with her, Ada Carolina Ortega Vanegas, her daughter and assistant, was fired. Both are relatives of the evicted magistrate Alba Luz Ramos.
- Henry Morales, from the Court of Appeals of Managua. He was promoted in 2021, he was previously the Sixth Criminal Judge of Hearings and was the one who brought the case against the journalists of 100% Noticias.
- María Auxiliadora Leiva, judge member of the Appeals Court of Masaya. Leiva began her judicial career in the mid-nineties, as an advisor to the Civil Chamber of the CSJ. In 2022 she was appointed as a magistrate of the Court of Appeals of the Las Segovias - Estelí Circumscription.
- Thelma Vanegas Álvarez, magistrate of the Court of Appeals of the Southern Circumscription, in Granada, who in the last election of that court, in June 2022, was reelected as member of the Criminal Chamber.
- Jaime Alfonso Solís Romero, presiding magistrate of the Central District, in Juigalpa, Chontales, was reelected for years in that position, despite complaints and allegations of corruption.
- Roberto Petray Castillo, magistrate of the Court of Appeals of the Northern Region, in Las Segovias. Petray was a member of the Nicaraguan Resistance or "Contra" in the eighties, human rights defender in the nineties, personal and legal assistant of the now bishop emeritus of Estelí, Abelardo Mata, and executive director of the Nicaraguan Pro-Human Rights Association (Anpdh), which he left to join the Government party.
- Hilda Rugama Zelaya, magistrate of the Court of Appeals of Estelí. Rugama is described as a former FSLN militant, leader of the Sandinista Leadership Councils (CLS) in the Judicial Branch, and promoter of the sentences against several political prisoners in the area, after the repression and massacre against the April Rebellion.
- Indalecio González, magistrate of the Court of Appeals of Estelí. González was a PLC militant and came to the Judiciary as a result of the pact between Arnoldo Alemán and Daniel Ortega to divide the powers of the State.
- Teresa de Jesús Peña, presiding magistrate of the Court of Appeals of Bluefields, who in July 2023 was reelected for the sixth consecutive time, totaling thirteen years in the post, to which she arrived for the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) and allied to the FSLN, to which she later joined.
- Jimmy Chang, presiding magistrate of the Court of Appeals of Puerto Cabezas, in the Autonomous Region of the Northern Caribbean Coast.
A citizen report, detailed to CONFIDENCIAL that the dismissed officials in Puerto Cabezas were evicted by members of the Police Intelligence of that city. In addition, they claim that Rafaela Castro Olayo, who - according to a press release from the Judiciary - was a judge of Sentence Execution and Penitentiary Surveillance in Puerto Cabezas, was taken prisoner. In the Northern Caribbean, including the Mining Triangle, more than 40 dismissals are reported.
Interrogations and jail
Some of the officials arbitrarily dismissed from the Judiciary have been subjected to interrogations in El Chipote and District III, in Managua, prisons where the dictatorship locks up political prisoners.
According to different reports, some have been detained without their families having the possibility of speaking with them.
However, other former officials have been released. Among them is the dismissed administrator of the CSJ, Berman Martinez, whose corruption charges have been put on the back burner, because he is allowed to move around Managua.
More than a year of hunting in the CSJ
In an environment of increasing pressure from Ortega's government on the structures of the CSJ, in October 2022, Katia Jaentschke Acevedo, director of International Relations of the CSJ and daughter of the former vice-chancellor Valdrack Jaentschke Whitaker, political operator of the regime and current "minister counselor" in the Nicaraguan embassy in Costa Rica, was dismissed by "superior orders". Also Ruth Tapia Roa, director of Protocol of the Court, who was previously secretary of the Ministry of Defense, ambassador to France and representative (for three months) to the Organization of American States (OAS).
Days before, the advisor to the Presidency of the CSJ, Leónidas Tapia, was dismissed.
Meanwhile, the core of confidence of the now ousted president of the CSJ was shrinking since then, with the arrest -that same month- of the spokesperson Roberto Larios, the advisor Moises Astorga, and the brothers Maria Jose and Hans Camacho, Ramos' assistants. The four were imprisoned in El Chipote and exiled to the United States in February 2023, together with more than 200 political prisoners of Ortega's regime.
By May 2023, it was estimated that another 120 officials of that branch of government had been dismissed. The order for that hunt in the CSJ was executed by the then administrator of the Judicial Branch, Berman Martínez, who at the end of September 2023 was removed from his political post as secretary of FSLN organizations in the CSJ and days later was one of the first three new dismissals in the CSJ, less than a month after the eviction of Alba Luz Ramos and the national sweep that continues to spread.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.