Casting an even longer shadow of doubt over the independence and professionalism of Nicaragua’s judicial system, Sandinista and Liberal lawmakers strengthened their bipartisan alliance last week by electing eight magistrates – four Sandinistas and four Liberals – to sit on the Supreme Court, including Antonio Alemán, the brother of incarcerated former President Arnoldo Alemán.
Amid protest from opposition lawmakers, who walked out on the session yet weren’t able to break quorum, the National Assembly re-elected six of the sitting Supreme Court magistrates and voted in two new ones, including Alemán. Legal analysts scoffed at the proceedings, saying Alemán’s only qualification for the job is that he is brother to the Liberal party boss, who subsequently is seeking to overturn his 2002 conviction for money laundering and fraud.
After the vote, Sandinista lawmaker Xóchitl Ocampo effectively acknowledged that the magistrates were elected for political reasons, rather than based on merit.
“The judgeships are not for traitors or deserters,” she said.
The two leading daily newspapers lamented the vote as further evidence of the deteriorating condition of Nicaragua’s institutional democracy, which suffers from extremely low levels of public confidence.
The Permanent Commission on Human Rights released a survey last week showing that a whopping 91 percent of the population doesn’t think that justice is administered fairly for everyone, while 67 percent say they think judicial decisions are based on users political and economic situation.