MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Opposition leaders are calling for “civil disobedience” and “general rebellion” against the government of President Daniel Ortega following the latest rulings by the de facto Sandinista Supreme Court, which includes two judges whose terms expired last month but who refuse to hand in their gavels.
Yesterday afternoon Sandinista judges emitted a resolution to nullify an April 20 congressional session held inside the Holiday Inn hotel in Managua, and to revoke the legal immunity of seven opposition lawmakers.
The opposition lambasted the Sandinistas’ move as another “illegal barbarity” and a “shameful disrespect for the constitution.”
The Sandinista magistrates are trying to overturn the results of a controversial legislative session convoked by opposition lawmakers last month inside the Holiday Inn in order to avoid Sandinista mobs waiting outside the National Assembly (TT, April 23).
During the extraordinary session, the lawmakers – who were able to achieve quorum without Sandinista lawmakers being present – introduced a bill to the Assembly Judicial Affairs Commission to overturn President Daniel Ortega’s polemical Jan. 9 executive order that extended the terms of 25 top judicial and executive officials.
Sandinista judges had passed a separate resolution earlier in April forbidding the National Assembly from trying to overturn Ortega’s decree. The opposition, however, argues the Supreme Court has no legal right to forbid the National Assembly from passing laws, and went ahead and presented the bill.
The Sandinista judges – including ex-Magistrate Rafael Solís, whose term ended April 11 but who has refused to give up his seat – struck back yesterday by passing another resolution to nullify the actions taken during the April 20 session. The Sandinistas judges also sought to punish opposition lawmakers for their disobedience by stripping legal immunity from the seven congressmen who sit on the Judicial Affairs Commission.
For José Pallaís, president of the Judicial Affairs Commission and a member of the opposition Liberal Constitutional Party, everything that the Sandinistas are doing is brazenly illegal. He argues that Ortega’s original decree illegally usurped authority from the National Assembly; the Supreme Court’s first resolution preventing the National ssembly from introducing a bill was illegal ecause the judicial branch had no authority o interfere in such matters; and finally, yesterday’s resolution was also illegal because he Supreme Court had no authority to strip lawmakers of their immunity. Plus, he said, only three Sandinista judges, including one whose term has expired, illegally convened the high court.
“There is no rule of law here anymore! Everything has become absurd and totally contrary to the law! The only thing left is the right to rebellion!” an agitated Pallaís told he Nica Times yesterday afternoon, after learning about the Sandinista ruling.
While Nicaragua’s weak institutional government continues to implode, chaos returned to the streets of Managua around the National Autonomous University of Managua (UNAN), which has been taken over for the past week by a group of students. The situation led to violence Tuesday, when another group of students objected to the university takeover.
The bands of masked “students” – allegedly belonging to two Sandinista factions struggling for power within the university – clashed on the streets outside the university ith rocks, home-made mortars and even pistols. Several students were injured during the fighting, including one who was pistol-whipped by another student, who in turn was captured by TV cameras pointing his gun at other students.
The National Police, which was criticized this week by the World Organization Against Torture for being ineffective, did nothing to stop the violence. Police claim the university’s autonomy prevents them from acting.
The U.S. Embassy, meanwhile, issued another alert to U.S. citizens yesterday to avoid the area of Managua around the UNAN, to “maintain a high level of security awareness, and to avoid large crowds due to the potential for violence.”