MANAGUA – President Daniel Ortega lashed out this week at Nicaragua’s two biggest human-rights groups for criticizing his handling of the National Police in the ongoing struggle for Nicaragua’s largest dump.
The two groups, the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH) and the Permanent Human Rights Commission (CPDH), publicly chided Ortega for giving “illegal orders” to police to not intervene in protests by dump dwellers who are blocking garbage trucks from entering the La Chureca landfill outside of Managua (NT,March 28).
“This is the only country in the world where human rights groups request police intervention to remove poor, humble people,” Ortega said, adding that the positions of the groups are “inadmissible.”
Ortega’s relationship with the National Police – an institution born during the first Sandinista government in the 1980s – has concerned some security experts. Ortega has criticized police for losing touch with their revolutionary and ethical roots and has pushed for involvement of the controversial Councils of Citizen Power (CPCs) in police work (NT, Feb. 1).
Although Managua Mayor Dionisio “Nicho”Marenco had requested police assistance to reopen La Chureca, which has been closed by protesters for more than a month, Ortega has ordered police to stand down.
“Police aren’t for stopping people from protesting. They’re for stopping delinquency,” he said Monday.
The debacle over La Chureca is the latest in a power struggle between Ortega and Marenco, a fellow Sandinista whose popularity and leadership have gotten him into trouble with the president and his powerful wife, Rosario Murillo.
Though the so-called Churequeros, or Chureca dump dwellers, have been negotiating with the municipality for the past week, no agreement had been reached as of press time this week.
On Monday, Managua’s Vice Mayor Nery Leiva Orochena said that an agreement was expected to be reached with the Churequeros by April 3. In the meantime, he said, the municipality would continue to truck its garbage to neighboring dumps in Tipitapa and Nindirí.
Right before the Chureca scandal started, CENIDH gave Ortega poor marks for the deterioration of government institutions, democratic order and press freedoms in his first year in office (NT, Feb. 29).