The Nicaraguan government dissolved the legal status of 25 more non-governmental organizations on Monday, confiscating the assets of 12 of them in its ongoing crackdown on civil society since the anti-government protests of 2018.
According to the official Nicaraguan gazette La Gaceta, the country’s Ministry of Governance ordered the closure of the NGOs, accusing them of failing to fulfill legal financial reporting obligations. The assets of the dissolved groups will now fall under state control.
Among the organizations shut down are Catholic and Protestant religious bodies as well as groups providing services to disadvantaged populations. In total, the Ortega regime has now forcibly dissolved around 3,500 NGOs over the past five years.
The move is the latest in a series of measures to clamp down on independent organizations since the widespread protests against President Daniel Ortega in 2018 which led to over 300 deaths. Since then, Nicaragua has instituted strict new laws governing civil society groups, many of which have been critical of the authoritarian drift under Ortega’s watch.
Several prominent NGOs affiliated with the Catholic Church have also been targeted, including the Jesuit university in Managua which saw its campus confiscated this August. A nearby residence for priests was also seized.
The deteriorating relationship between the Nicaraguan government and Catholic Church stands in stark contrast to the traditionally close ties between the two institutions in the country.
International observers have roundly condemned the systematic destruction of Nicaraguan civil society over the past half decade. The United States and European Union have accused the Ortega regime of violently repressing political opponents and dissent.
For its part, the Nicaraguan government alleges that shuttered NGOs helped finance the 2018 anti-government protests in an effort to unlawfully overthrow Ortega. Thousands of Nicaraguans have fled into exile, while hundreds of jailed protestors were stripped of citizenship and expelled from the country earlier this year.
From here in Costa Rica, we stand with the Nicaraguan people and implore the Ortega government to change course and embrace democratic reforms before it is too late. The region cannot afford further instability and oppression from a key Central American neighbor.