San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Rights Center Gives Ortega Poor Grades

MANAGUA – Despite limited advances in providing access to education and health care, the government of President Daniel Ortega received poor marks in its first annual human rights report by the NicaraguanCenter for Human Rights (Cenidh).

The 2007 report, issued last week, highlights a number of areas in which the Ortega administration is registering “a deficit in human rights,” according to Vilma Núñez de Escorcia, head of Cenidh.

“The profile is worrisome; the balance of human rights is negative,” Núñez said. “This government is characterized by a deterioration of government institutions and the democratic order, as well as threats to freedom of the press.”

The report notes that Ortega inherited an enormous “social debt” from his predecessor President Enrique Bolaños, who handed the incoming Sandinista government a country that was ranked 112 of 177 countries in the United Nations Development Fund’s Human Development Index. Yet despite the electoral promises of Ortega, which focused on a series of slogans promising “zero hunger” and “zero unemployment,” there has been no coordinated government plan to deal with the problems facing the country, Núñez said.

And in some cases, the result has been just the opposite of what was promised in the campaign, the report noted.

“The announcement of ‘zero unemployment’ during the campaign converted into thousands of government workers being fired and an increase in emigration and exploitation of workers to Costa Rica,” the report reads, noting “clear evidence of the incapacity to create jobs.”

Núñez said it is also difficult to analyze the government’s program, because “no one knows what it is.

“There is only a succession of decisions that reflect improvisation and incoherence. We don’t know where we are going,” she said.

Núñez said that some of the government’s actions have shown a tendency toward favoritism or nepotism, while others have been well intentioned but without the funding to make them work. Even the more wellintentioned programs – such as free education, free health care and poverty relief programs such as “hunger zero” – need to be consolidated further this year to start showing the desired effects, Núñez said.

Overall, however, the negatives outweigh the positives after Ortega’s first year in office, the report claims.

Near the top of the list of negatives mentioned in this year’s report is the human rights situation of women. Not only was lifesaving therapeutic abortion criminalized, but leaders of the women’s movement have been targeted in a political witch hunt under the guise of human rights, and 16 women have been fired from government posts in the past year, despite the Sandinistas’ promise to include women in 50% of public offices.

Also on the negative side of the list are: the deteriorating situation of press freedoms; government corruption – in the form of unaccountable Venezuelan aid, extortion of investors and a general lack of transparency; the deteriorating judicial system; government nepotism and secretism headed by a first lady whom Núñez calls “omnipresent”; the “illegal liberation” of U.S. citizen Eric Volz, whom the report calls the “North American assassin;” and the treatment of convicted criminal and former President Arnoldo Alemán.

The report, however, ends by encouraging Ortega that its not too late to turn things around.

“There is still time. There are four years left in your president term,” Núñez says in the report. “You should abandon your aggressive discourse that provokes only rejection of our country…You should change the autocratic style of government, eliminate the centralization and the secretism and the authoritarianism for [a model based more] on transparency and inclusive information, abandoning the confusion of state-party-family and the threats and blackmail, and be conscientious that you are the president of all Nicaraguans, and should act that way.”


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