San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Sandinista Judges Refuse to Step Down

A session in the Supreme Court April 12 unraveled into a shouting match between judges when opposition magistrate Gabriel Rivera read a declaration stating that the high court no longer recognizes the authority of Sandinista magistrates Rafael Solís and Armengol Cuadra, whose terms expired April 11.

After Rivera read a proclamation by opposition judges stating that the court no longer recognizes the authority of Solís and Cuadra, and that all decisions the two make from now on will be illegal, the head Sandinista magistrate responded furiously, telling Rivera to “shut up” and calling him a “killer.”

Solís, who is close to President Daniel Ortega, insisted that he would remain at his post until his successor is picked. To defend his position, Solís cited President Ortega’s controversial decree (calling for 25 top magistrates to remain at their posts) and an obscure law from the 1987, which legal analysts say expired 20 years ago (see separate story).

Solís said the Liberal judges’ attempt to declare him illegal is a case of political manipulation by the opposition.

“That’s our position; we are going to be here and we are going to sign all sentences and (resolutions),” Solís said.

Supreme Court president Manuel Martínez, meanwhile, said Solís and Cuadra are no longer recognized as magistrates.

Last week, during a visit to the Supreme Court by top military brass, Solís thanked the generals for their support of the government and warned of certain “hot heads” threatening the “institutionality” of the country. Solís was apparently alluding to those protesting Sandinista officials’ intention to remain in office beyond their terms.

Solís’ words were interpreted by the opposition as a call for military repression of any protests against the Sandinista government.

A military spokesman this week reiterated that the military will not get involved in domestic political disputes.

Meanwhile, Liberal Party magistrate Damiscis Sirias, whose term also ended April 11, packed his desk and left his post this week, saying he refused to adhere to Ortega’s questionable decree.

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