Rafael Solis: First Crack in Ortega’s Inner Circle

His letter of resignation and denunciation, testifies to the crimes of the dictatorship and should annul the trials of political prisoners, say analyst

The recent interview that Rafael Solis offered the Nicaraguan media has given rise to countless interpretations and questions

14 de enero 2019


The resignation of Rafael Solis to his high office in the Nicaraguan Supreme Court, and also to his militancy in the Sandinista Front, shook the country from the very bases of the governing party, among whom many still resist to believe that one of the most pragmatic and loyal voices within the inner circle of the dictator Daniel Ortega has abandoned ship.

Meanwhile, human rights defenders, analysts and Nicaraguan government opponents see Solis “resignation and denunciation” letter, as an “act of confession” that testifies to the crimes of the dictatorship, and should annul the trials against more than 500 political prisoners concluded or in process.

Solis’s letter is a harsh criticism of the way in which Ortega and his wife and Vice President, Rosario Murillo, have handled the crisis: “I always believed that good sense and reason would prevail on you and a political negotiation could proceed that would allow early elections and some of the other points raised by the opposition, but reality has shown the opposite,” he laments.

Solis assures that in Nicaragua a “real state of terror has been imposed, with the excessive use of paramilitary forces or even the police itself with weapons of war.” A situation, he maintains, that has “sowed fear” and “there is no longer any right being respected, with the inevitable consequences of the installation and consolidation of at least a dictatorship with characteristics of an absolute monarchy of two kings, that has made all the powers of the state disappear, leaving the same judicial power to which I belong reduced to its most minimal expression.”

“It is a confession”

For human rights defender and former Supreme Court Justice, Vilma Nunez, Solis’s letter is clearly “an act of confession” and “one of the most compelling evidences” of all the crimes committed by the regime of Ortega and Murillo.

“That letter is a confession of all the acts that have been committed from April to date and comes from someone who has been, from within, involved with the regime, which confirms the crimes against humanity they have committed,” she noted.

Nunez said the words of Solis give an endorsement to the report of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), but the letter does not exempt him from his responsibility “as one of the political mentors in the institutional rupture that he now denounces.”

“Now that Ortega and Murillo do not let the people protest in the streets, one of their strongest weapons of intimidation is the judiciary, the one that Rafael Solis admits only obeys to this couple obsessed with power,” says the president of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh), an organization that the Ortega steamroller at the National Assembly stripped of its legal status.

A rupture in the circle of power

Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo with Francisco Diaz (r), the National Police Chief and the father-in-law of one of the sons. Photo: Presidency

The former member of the National Directorate of the Sandinista Front who governed in the 80s, Luis Carrion, states that Solis’ resignation “is the most important that has occurred so far among the regime’s officials, because (Solis) was a magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice and a person very close to the power circle of the Ortega-Murillo.”

“We can speculate on the deepest causes of his decision, but the reasons stated in his letter are clearly political, he resigned in rejection of the criminal path taken by Ortega during these months, imposing a reign of terror, giving orders to judges, using paramilitaries and the police themselves with weapons of war to suppress the protests, filling the prisons with more than 500 political prisoners,” he argues.

Carrion indicates that everything that Solis admits most Nicaraguans have already known for many months, “but being exposed by someone coming from the heart of the dictatorial power structure encourages other officials who share his doubts and reasons to make their own decision in the same way.”

“Likewise, he adds, it also strips all those that from abroad who try to defend the indefensible, reproducing the “story of a soft coup.”

“The members of the FSLN who have been fed with fake news by Ortega’s communications media should pay attention to the words of Solis, because they come from someone who has been at the heart of the power structure and knows what is happening there and of what is decided there,” Carrion insists.

He added that after this confession of Solis, the supporters of the ruling party “can no longer claim ignorance,” because “remaining stuck to Ortega is to be accomplices, albeit passively, of the destruction of democracy and the rule of law, of crushing freedom of expression, of the suffering of families of the dead, the injured and the political prisoners.”

Crucial to the OAS

Foreign minister Denis Moncada (c) and the Nicaraguan permanent representative to the UN, Sidhartha Francisco Marin (2nd right), con el jefe de gabinete del secretario general de OEA, Gonzalo Koncke, before a UN session. Photo: EFE | Confidencial

The resignation of Solis was revealed on the eve of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) on Friday that initiated the process to apply the Inter-American Democratic Charter to the Ortega Government. A moment that guerrilla commander and historian, Dora Maria Tellez, considers of great importance for the debate.

The former president of the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) notes that Solis’ letter puts on the table the fact that in Nicaragua there was never an attempt at a coup d’état and there was no external aggression as the Government has argued at home and to the international community. Instead everything was a brutal repression by the dictatorship, she noted.

“Solis says very clearly that the judiciary was kidnapped by Ortega-Murillo. He says that in Nicaragua there is a state of terror and that is fundamental, because that is exactly what is being debated with the Democratic Charter. First, the big human rights crisis, and second, the debate on the appropriation of institutions that has occurred by the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship,” said Tellez in statements to the news portal “Nicaragua Investiga” (Nicaragua Investigates”).

The former guerrilla commander holds that Solis lets us see that Ortega “has no will to dialogue” and this is important for those who believe in him blindly because in his letter Solis states that the “head of this dictatorship simply wants to take Nicaragua to another level of conflict” such as a civil war.

On her tweeter account, Tellez also indicates that with his letter, “Solis testifies that the sentences against political prisoners are dictated from the El Carmen presidential bunker,” reason for which human rights defenders, defense lawyers and relatives of political prisoners argue that the proceedings against them should be annulled immediately.

The Judiciary is stripped of legitimacy

“I obey the orders of my party.” File photo from a protest at the judiciary back in March 2017.

Former Liberal Party legislator and ex-president of the Legal Affairs Commission of the National Assembly, Jose Pallais, assures that this letter of resignation letter shows that Solis reached the conclusion that “the situation” within the regime “is unmanageable due to the international isolation to which the country is being subjected and which is taking it one step from being ungovernable.”

“This awakening of consciousness of Rafael Solis validates the thesis that crimes against humanity have been committed. The judiciary is stripped, pointing out once again that it is subject to the will of the presidential couple because they do not apply the law,” he expressed.

Pallais insists that the lack of rule of law is proven and that Solis’ letter corroborates it, “discrediting the story they have wanted to sell that there was an attempted coup d’état.”

The lawyer notes that the letter will have a demoralizing effect within the party structures of the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship.

“We should not doubt that this could enhance their espionage, intimidation against public officials, and they should not rule out the possibility that they could be prevented from traveling outside the country. Now, each person who is still faithful to the presidential couple will have to reflect in light of the resignation of a figure like Rafael Solis,” warns Pallais.

He further adds, “it is never too late to repent” as he considers what happened with Solis, and adds that we should be pleased that someone with such a high position “has decided to resign.”

An “overwhelming blow” to the Ortega government

Protestors saying that Nicaragua needs “Less political prisoners and more politicians in jail.”

The Articulation of Social Movements and Organizations of Civil Society, for its part, believes that the resignation of Solis is an “overwhelming blow” to the Ortega power structure, which “will have consequences.”

According to this opposition alliance, the resignation “will make many (Sandinista) militants ponder whether they should continue defending corrupt and criminal dictators who have committed crimes against humanity and will one day be judged for it.”

The ex-magistrate and also best man of Ortega and Murillo’s weeding, was considered the main political operator of the FSLN in the judicial branch.

In an interview with Radio France International, given in Costa Rica, where he has been since January 7 (a day before delivering his resignation), Solis assured that more governmental officials could resign.

“Yes, I think so, it is likely to happen. It is a possibility. It is not something that I have talked with other people about, but I do feel that there is a possibility that could occur, if a process of reconciliation is not effectively achieved with justice, with democracy, with peace, true, genuine. I believe that other people are going to resign in the future,” he said.

According to Solis, the submission of the judicial power to the dictatorship of Ortega and Murillo, “was a long process in which the judicial branch, including us, the Supreme Court justices, were giving way, yielding power, and in the end the power of decision of the judiciary is minimal in matters of all those trials that are being carried out (against protestors). In another series of constitutional matters, the judicial branch, the legislative branch, other State powers, including the Electoral, have been practically reduced. They are in the hands of the President and the Vice President, he said.

The Costa Rican newspaper, La Nacion, confirmed that Solis arrived in Costa Rica on January 7th, and to date there is no departure recorded.


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Yader Luna

Periodista nicaragüense, con dos décadas de trayectoria en medios escritos y digitales. Fue editor de las publicaciones Metro, La Brújula y Revista Niú. Ganador del Grand Prize Lorenzo Natali en Derechos Humanos.


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