San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Sullied Magistrate Accused of Serious Corruption (Again)

The de facto president of Nicaragua’s discredited electoral system was thrust back in the middle of another corruption scandal this week following an investigative report in the daily La Prensa that found he recently purchased a private jet as part of his inexplicable and growing personal fortune.

Activist lawyers and human-rights leaders are again demanding the removal from office of Roberto Rivas, who has been accused multiple times of massive corruption and illicit enrichment.

In addition to being accused of masterminding the allegedly rigged 2008 municipal elections, in which the Sandinistas are accused of stealing 40 mayors’ seats, Rivas has also been accused of illegally selling state identification cards and amassing a monstrous personal fortune – including a plane, various mansions in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, a yacht, a private island and four luxury cars – that isn’t easily explained by his $60,000 government salary.

Rivas has not responded to the most recent allegation that he ripped off a business partner and bought a $507,000 jet. Instead, the sullied magistrate has responded to criticism by baring the opposition media from entering the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) and increasing his police protection.

In addition to all the corruption scandals, Rivas is also accused of usurping his office, since his term as CSE president expired more than four months ago. He refuses to leave office, claiming his continuance in office is allowed under President Daniel Ortega’s controversial decree from January.

Despite the scandals, Rivas, a family friend of Ortega’s and protégée of Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, remains protected at the highest level of government. There are no official investigations into his numerous alleged acts of corruption and misdeeds.

“The level of corruption by Rivas and the impunity is incredible,” Vilma Núñez, president of the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center, told the daily La Prensa.

Though Rivas’ credibility is seriously questioned here and abroad, Ortega and the Sandinistas continue to insist on Rivas’ reelection next year as president of the CSE.

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