The president of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ), Alba Luz Ramos, and Justice Yadira Centeno González of the Civil Chamber of the CSJ were evicted from their offices in the high court and sent to their homes, by order of the Presidency and the Secretariat of the FSLN in El Carmen, sources linked to the Judiciary confirmed to CONFIDENCIAL.
The abrupt eviction of Ramos –occurring on Tuesday morning, October 24, 2023– was carried out by a group of police officers led by retired Commissioner General Horacio Rocha, presidential advisor with ministerial rank in national security matters.
Ramos left her office visibly affected and complaining of "abuse," said judicial sources who witnessed the expulsion. It is unknown what the fate of the president of the Court will be. Ramos has held her position since 2010, when she was elected by the National Assembly with the political backing of Daniel Ortega.
According to judicial sources, the Court has been institutionally and administratively beheaded by the political intervention of security advisor Néstor Moncada Lau and Vice-President Rosario Murillo, through orders carried out by commissioner Rocha.
The "de facto suspension of Dr. Alba Luz Ramos is evidence of Rosario Murillo taking control of the Judicial branch," said a source linked to the Supreme Court.
Centeno's eviction and daughter's arrest
The eviction of Justice Centeno González took place on the morning of October 26 and followed the same pattern as with Ramos: The police arrived and sent her to her home.
Hours later it became known that lawyer Carla Lucía Flores Centeno, daughter of the magistrate, was detained by the regime's police, according to CSJ sources.
Yadira Centeno is a supporter of the Sandinista Front and has been a magistrate for more than 27 years. She was the president of the Civil and Family Chamber of the Supreme Court.
Centeno is also the coordinator of the eastern district, which covers the provinces of Masaya and Carazo. Each year the Supreme Court magistrates divide up the national territory by circumscription in order to attend politically to their districts, according to a report by the Connectas platform.
Removal of Berman Martínez and Martín García
The source pointed out that the action against Ramos is an immediate consequence of the dismissal of Berman Martínez, organization secretary of the Sandinista party and general administrative secretary of the Judicial branch, and of Martín García, the director of the Information Technology unit. Both former officials are being investigated for alleged acts of corruption in the bidding processes for construction of new buildings and acquisition of computer equipment.
According to sources, Martínez and García were taken to the Auxiliary Judicial Complex, known as El Chipote.
On Monday, October 23, police seized Martinez' office. Martínez had been dismissed from his party post in September 2023, along with Walter Sobalvarro, former leader of the Sandinista Youth in Managua and director of the General Services office at the Court, and Carlos Alberto López Tinoco, union leader and secretary general of the National Confederation of Judicial Workers of Nicaragua.
The three officials and party activists coordinated the FSLN troll farm "branch" installed in Court facilities. As revealed in a report by CONFIDENCIAL, the troll operation is dedicated to spreading propaganda and attacking those the regime considers opponents through social media. Martinez was removed from his position as administrative secretary general of the Court on Monday, October 23. Pablo Corea, a retired Army colonel, was appointed as "interim director." The former military officer is "the central level administrator of the Court," a judicial source confided. Corea was removed from the post on Friday, October 27.
Power struggle with Justice Marvin Aguilar
The Secretariat, headed by Martínez, administered the constitutional allocation of 4% of the General Budget of the Republic that is assigned to the Judiciary branch. Martínez coordinated all matters related to the administration of human resources such as operationalization of hiring, payment or termination of personnel, as well as procurement and bidding processes for all types of goods or services, including construction and maintenance of buildings, acquisition of computer equipment and furniture.Martínez was also in charge of guaranteeing the participation of judiciary workers in Sandinista Front party activities: house-to-house visits, sit-ins at traffic circles, marches, participation in elections, and political assemblies.
In recent months, Martínez had disagreements with CSJ vice-president Justice Marvin Aguilar, who is the direct implementer of Moncada Lau's orders. "They began to jockey for position, and of course Aguilar won out," the source said.
The source explained that, in addition to Aguilar's institutional hierarchical superiority, he has the support of Moncada Lau, "who wanted to put someone totally loyal to El Carmen in the General Administrative Secretariat, because that would give him direct access to the Judiciary's budget allocation."
Information Technology unit director removed from office
Over the weekend of October 21-22, the Police also intervened in the General Information and Communications Technology Division (DGTIC), and Martín Garcia was removed from his position as director of the unit.
Since 2008, the Judiciary has implemented an office management model that has spurred a strong increase in the use of technology, starting with the digitalization of judicial files and processes. This process turned the DGTIC into a key unit within the Judicial branch, not only because of the number of its employees –more than 500 throughout Nicaragua–, but also because of the scope of its functions. The functioning of the entire digital structure of the Court depends on this area.
One of the sources pointed out that García is a Sandinista militant and former member of the Ministry of the Interior in the 1980s, but the structure headed by Moncada Lau needed to "substitute him with someone more trusted byJustice Aguilar."
According to the sources, Haziel Canda and Juan Carlos Zeas –the director of networks– were dismissed from the DGTIC on Wednesday, October 25.
Justices Méndez and Aguilar to replace Ramos
In Supreme Court circles, versions are circulating that Justice Alba Luz Ramos would be forced to tender her resignation as President of the Court before the National Assembly, while it is said that in the Sandinista Front Secretariat, located in El Carmen, "they are considering the appointment of Justice Juana Méndez as a substitute."
The only certainty, for the moment, is that the political power of the Court will continue to be held by Justice Aguilar, political secretary of the FSLN.
Ramos and Aguilar have both been sanctioned by the international community for the Judiciary's complicity in the prosecution of political prisoners.
CSJ sources consider that this situation in the Court is due to "internal power struggles between Ortega and Murillo," because the vice-president aspires to gain greater control in the two institutions that the dictator has managed with more zeal: the Army and the Judiciary.
Ramos has been a magistrate of the Court for 35 years, since 1988. She has been president of the Supreme Court on two occasions: the first, between 2002 and 2003 and the second, from 2010 to date. Her last reelection was in June 2022. The 74-year-old high-ranking official was on the verge of retirement.
A report published by CONFIDENCIAL revealed that Justice Ramos has tendered her resignation on several occasions, but Ortega has never accepted. In any case, Justice Aguilar is pointed to as the real power of the Court, with the backing of Moncada Lau.
According to the sanctions imposed by the United States on December 21, 2021, CSJ Vice President Marvin Aguilar is the national political secretary of the Sandinista Leadership Council. "As national political secretary, Aguilar is in direct contact with President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo and reportedly coordinates the prosecution of pro-democracy opposition members."
Lau's and Aguilar's "pawns" in the Court "will continue to accumulate power," the sources commented, referring to the judges of the Court of Appeals of Managua Ernesto Leonel Rodríguez Mejía and Octavio Rothschuh Andino –both sanctioned by the U.S.--, and Henry Morales.
This article was originally published in Spanish in CONFIDENCIAL and translated by our staff.