The United States infiltrated the inner circle of the presidential couple. With the sanction to Nestor Moncada Lau (“Chema”), Ortega’s private secretary, and liaison to the Police, paramilitary groups and intelligence activities, they have shown President Daniel Ortega that they know what is going on in the political kitchen of El Carmen bunker. The only way to know the role Moncada plays in the gears of the regime, according to Sandinista dissidents, is an “internal leak” from within the Ortega Murillo circle.
Moncada was sanctioned along with Vice President and First Lady, Rosario Murillo, for “rampant corruption, dismantling of democratic institutions, serious human rights abuse, and exploitation of the people and public resources for private gain,” according to a note from the Treasury Department.
Former Sandinista guerrilla Dora Maria Tellez said the sanctions against Moncada were a “direct and powerful” message to Ortega. “They told him: we have compromising information and we are willing to use it.”
“The United States brought to the spotlight a dark character, of whom we do not know much: what is more, the last photograph of Moncada is from when he was forty years old, today he is 64. This gives an idea of the shadows in which this character moves,” commented the Sandinista dissident.
A leak in El Carmen
Oscar Rene Vargas, a political analyst, assured that the only way for the United States to know about Moncada’s actions is through “an internal leak,” which indicates a rift in the presidential couple’s inner circle.
“It is a heavy blow to the repressive circle, in which it was known that Gustavo Porras, Fidel Moreno and other people were involved, but the actions of this man (Moncada) were not known,” Vargas said, adding that “this was leaked by one of them, because Moncada always had a very low profile.”
The leak has filled with “insecurity” the so-called “iron circle” of “Orteguismo,” according to Tellez, since the Americans revealed that they have an inside informant, which can be “anyone.”
A man loyal to Ortega and Murillo
Moncada is the custodian of the General Secretariat of the FSLN. A lawyer and experienced ex-officer of the Ministry of the Interior’s State Security, with strong bonds of loyalty towards Ortega and Murillo.
With the return of Ortega to power in 2007, the ex-officer assumed a prominent role as president’s liaison with the former police chief, Aminta Granera. All the orders of Ortega to Granera and the Minister of the Interior, Ana Isabel Morales, would be channeled through Moncada, who acquired a decisive incidence on the political redesign of the Police, the selection of professional officers who would go into retirement and the promotion of cadres aligned for their loyalty to Ortega.
His scope of action as an operator extends to the Ministry of the Interior, Immigration, the Revenue Service (DGI) and Customs.
He does not have an official position or appear on the government’s organizational chart, but no one disputes his closeness to power as guardian of the private affairs of the presidential family.
“A hard blow”
The sanctions against Murillo and Moncada, according to Vargas and Tellez, were a “hard blow” for Ortega since they touched two prominent members of the iron circle, which is completed by his children and others who are very close such as Fidel Moreno, Gustavo Porras, Francisco “Chico” Lopez, Foreign Minister Denis Moncada and Bayardo Arce.
“Both sanctions hurt him (Ortega), the one against Murillo because it is the political elimination of her, and the other (Moncada) because they strip him naked and even reveal the question of a daughter (presumably born from a relationship of Ortega with a minor),” highlighted Vargas.
For Tellez, the new sanctions touch the “core” of Ortega’s inner circle, since the previous ones—Roberto Rivas, Fidel Moreno, “Chico” Lopez and “Paco” Diaz—were “more institutional.”
A message to the regime
In addition to the sanctions, President Trump signed an “Executive Order” in which he describes the crisis in Nicaragua as an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” so he declared “a national emergency to deal with that threat.” Afterwards, the Senate approved unanimously legislation known as the “Magnitsky Nica,” designed to punish the Ortega Government. In both cases, the message was clear: the regime must put an end to repression against the citizenry and return to a negotiated solution to the crisis, according to what experts told Confidencial.
The approval of the legislation [still in the House-Senate negotiation stage] was taken for granted, but the sanctions were a surprise to all.
Jose Luis Velasquez, a former Ambassador of Nicaragua to the OAS, says the two measures reflect that there is a “full and profound” consensus in the Legislative and Executive of the United States that sanctions are needed to stop the radicalization of Ortega repression, which this week has focused on harassment of journalists and independent media outlets.
Furthermore, the sanctions against Murillo indicate to Ortega that he must renegotiate the terms of his departure, according to Alejandro Bendana, historian and former Ambassador to the UN. “The clear message to Ortega is that whatever could have been agreed previously regarding negotiations is no longer valid,” he commented.
Vargas believes that the United States has indicated to Ortega that the only thing left to negotiate is his departure from power. “It is a message to surrender,” he said.
Business executives demand political dialogue
In the days following the US sanctions, three private sector entities (Cosep, AmCham and Funides) issued a statement in which they refer to “the most recent events that include sanctions by the United States Government, our main commercial partner.”
“The private sector will do what it has been doing since the crisis began: support the reestablishment of a political dialogue that will provide the basis for a peaceful and rapid solution to the crisis,” said Sergio Maltez, President of the Chamber of Industries of Nicaragua (CADIN).
His colleague Guillermo Jacoby, President of the Association of Producers and Exporters of Nicaragua (APEN), admitted that the members of the Association are “very concerned, because the economic impact will lead to social crisis, and we see no intention of dialogue by the government, which creates more uncertainty.”
Anyway, he defended the performance of Cosep, because “since the crisis began, we have said that there must be early elections, inclusive dialogue and a return to an institutional framework, and that position is maintained.”
Lucy Valenti, President of the National Chamber of Tourism (CANATUR), trusted that there will be “good sense in the minds of authorities and that they realize that we cannot live in isolation.”
“It is essential to guarantee the rights of the people, and that passes necessarily through ensuring democratic institutions and the Rule of Law that has been lost in our country,” said Valenti.
Jacoby warned that “if consumption continues to decline, banks will continue to restrict loans, and a country without loans does not grow.”
Maltez points out that if there are sanctions under the Nica Act, “the repercussions will be very severe. An economic outcome very damaging to Nicaragua will affect us, which can lead to a social explosion. There would be more uncertainty because other countries could take similar measures, and isolate us completely.