On March 19th, the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health (Minsa) inaugurated a family center in the confiscated offices of the non-profit “Popol Na”. The inauguration was an attempt to disguise an “illegitimate and illegal” act under” a cloak of legality,” stated Mónica Baltodano. The former FSLN guerrilla leader, founded the organization several decades ago.
“From a legal point of view, the government has no path to formalize the punitive action they carried out. I call that act criminal, ” Baltodano stated.
“Popol Na” is one of nine NGOs the Sandinista-dominated National Assembly arbitrarily stripped of legal status in December 2018. Following the Assembly vote, its facilities were occupied by the National Police. Similar occupations took place at buildings belonging to media outlets Confidential and 100% Noticias, along with other groups.
Two years after this abuse, the regime has converted these properties to social service projects. They’ve been inaugurated as maternity care centers, addiction treatment centers, health clinics and a diabetes treatment center.
Nonetheless, Baltodano explained, according to the legal and property codes, the building “isn’t in [Sandinista] hands.” The inaugurations, she stated, “are de facto acts”.
The Sandinista dissident has filed appeals of unconstitutionality with the Nicaraguan Supreme Court. She also filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s office, accusing the National Police of illegal entry. During the initial takeover, police entered their offices and forcefully ejected some 15 mothers of political prisoners.
The protesting mothers had been staying in the “Popol Na” building. The police simply seized everything in the building, including a vehicle belonging to Baltodano. Up until now, they’ve refused to return it to her. Monica Baltodano has also denounced these abuses internationally.
The inaugurations are “masquerades”
Baltodano described the health services that Minsa claims to provide in the occupied facilities as “facades”. They’re “masquerades” to put a seal on the confiscations, which are prohibited by the Nicaraguan Constitution.
According to the regime’s official media, the Popol Na property is now the “Elena del Carmen Lau” Family Center. They claim the center will provide natural medicine, maternity services, rehabilitation and early intervention for young children.
Baltodano commented on the irony of the situation. While the regime tries to showcase its new services to the community, Popol Na had been serving them since 1990. The NGO worked “with farmers and women, for the defense of their rights and the environment”.
The cult of Ortega and Murillo
The regime painted all the confiscated buildings the same way, with the fuchsia pink that has become the regime’s brand. In addition, they installed large metal signs on the fronts of all the buildings, with enormous photographs of Ortega and Murillo.
The inaugurations were also similar, all dominated by speeches singing the regime’s praises. Standing before a mobile group of supporters, the Minsa authorities in each case repeated their odes of gratitude. In lockstep, they thanked the “Comandante and his companion” for the achievements in health.
These inaugurations began on February 23rd, with a maternity care center set up in the offices belonging to Confidencial. On February 24th, the facilities of the Institute for Development and Democracy (Ipade), were inaugurated as a diabetes center. The following day, the studios of 100% Noticias became a center for addictions treatment. Finally, on February 27, the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (Cenidh) became a clinic and a center for maternity care.
On March 5th, the confiscated offices of the Center for Information and Advisory Services in Health (CISAS) were illegally repurposed. These installations were converted into a rehabilitation center for those suffering with addictions.
The National Police illegally occupied Popol Na in 2018. They expelled 15 mothers of political prisoners, who were taking refuge in this building. Photo: Office of the President