Is The Border Closed? Officially No. But To Nicaraguans Stranded In The Caymans

The Ortega regime would not permit the repatriation flights from the Cayman Islands, a group of workers that were looking for a flight to return to Nicaragua

The Ortega regime would not permit the repatriation flights from the Cayman Islands, a group of workers that were looking for a flight to return to Nicaragua

Although the Daniel Ortega regime has not officially declared the closure of borders or blocked the entry of foreigners, the Government rejected a repatriation flight for Nicaraguans from the Cayman Islands that would have arrived on, Saturday, April 18, in Managua.

Photo for illustrative purposes

The Government on Friday claimed that from now on it has closed its borders due to the pandemic.

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On April 15, Cayman Airways reported that it would make flights to Managua on April 18 to repatriate Nicaraguans who are on the island and are looking for a way out of there amid the pandemic.

However, on Friday, the regime backed down.

“The Government of the Cayman Islands informed Cayman Airways that the Nicaraguan Government closed its borders indefinitely as of today (April 17), and as a result, repatriation flights scheduled to depart from Grand Cayman to Managua this Saturday, April 18, 2020, have been canceled,” the airline reported on its website.

The airline had scheduled two flights, one leaving the island at 8:30 am and at Aeropuerto Internacional Augusto C. Sandino airport, in Managua at 9:05 am, and the second leaving at 1:50 pm and arriving at 2:25 pm.

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“Cayman Airways reservation agents are in the process of contacting affected passengers regarding the cancellation of repatriation flights from Managua. Passengers will receive a refund back to their original form of payment for their tickets,” said the airline.

Several days ago it had been known that there were Nicaraguans from the Caribbean Coast working in the Cayman Islands and that they were looking for a flight to return to Nicaragua. When they had finally found a flight, the Ortega government rejected their entry.

Through social networks, a group of 50 Nicaraguans stranded in the Cayman Islands asked the Government to help them return to Nicaragua because they did not have jobs in that country due to the impact of the pandemic.

But, is the border closed?

For now, the Daniel Ortega regime has not officially announced the official closure of borders, the only country in Central America that has not publicly restricted the entry of foreigners.

What has happened is that, as of several days ago, all airlines have ceased their flights to and from Nicaragua, taking into account that most of the airports in Latin America are closed, due to confinement as a consequence of the pandemic.

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Ortega’s decision is contrary to the measures that the other countries of Central America have adopted, that although they have closed their borders, they allow the entry of their citizens and legal residents, subject to quarantine measures to reduce the risk of contagion.

To the south, Costa Rica, for example, which closed its borders to foreigners on March 19, made it clear by decree that it would only allow Costa Ricans and foreigners with residence to enter, who must remain in isolation for 14 days in their homes.

Panama did so days earlier, on March 16. The Panamanian Health Ministry said that all nationals or foreigners with residence who arrived after that date would have to serve a 14-day quarantine.

Meanwhile, to the north, El Salvador, although the Government of Nayib Bukele ruled out the possibility of repatriation flights being organized as a State, he explained that if Salvadorans and foreigners residing in the country arrive, they will enter and be subject to a month’s quarantine.

Guatemala, which closed its borders on March 16, said that during the quarantine, only Guatemalans or members of the diplomatic corps will be allowed to enter by land, who will be subjected to a period of quarantine.

Honduras also decreed on March 16 the closure of its borders, but during that period the entry of Honduran citizens will be allowed.

In Nicaragua, the embassies of the European Union and other countries urged their citizens to return to their respective countries due to the fragility of the Nicaraguan health system.

Measure is illegal

According to Avil Ramírez, lawyer and former Minister of Defense in the Enrique Bolaños government (2002 – 2007), the measure taken by the Daniel Ortega regime is completely illegal and arbitrary, since it violates the country’s Political Constitution that in its article in article 28 says: “Nicaraguans have the right to freely enter and leave the country”.

The director of borders, Edgar Acevedo, recently stated that “the Directorate of Immigration and Foreigners does not have any restriction for any national to enter the territory”.

“So it is not understood why, 24 hours after Mr. Ortega appeared saying that everything was normal in the country, and without knowing any disposition that orders the contrary, the flight into which the Nicaraguan people who had been stranded on the Island of Grand Cayman were prevented from entering the national territory. It is yet another arbitrariness of the regime,” he said.

Faced with such a situation, Ramírez explained that the only thing left for the Nicaraguans stranded in that territory is to wait for a humanitarian act on the part of the regime.

“We are clear that through the legal instruments that protect them (the Nicaraguan), nothing can be done, we must wait before the arbitrariness committed by the same State that should protect their rights and rather what it has done is violate them”, he concluded.


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Nicaragua Adopts the Cuban – Venezuelan Model

In early October 2018, Daniel Ortega’s regime installed a state of siege via a Police decree prohibiting civic marches. The OAS Inter-American Commission for Human Rights warned at the time that Ortega instituted a de facto State of Emergency. He had essentially suspended constitutional rights such as the freedom of assembly and mobilization, free speech, and a free press.

The goal of the state of siege was to wipe out the independent civic protest and to suppress and divide the opposition. Further, they aimed to impose a false normality through repression. With this, they hoped to coopt the large business leaders and reestablish the regime’s political and economic alliances.

Nevertheless, looking at the facts, Ortega instead deepened his national and international isolation. In addition, for two consecutive years he aggravated the economic recession and the social crisis. This continued until the negligent management of the Coronavirus health crisis brought him an unexpected political invoice. The mismanaged public health crisis wore down the credibility of his leadership, even among the members of his own party.

The regime now announces the imposition of new punitive laws. There’s a push to allow the use of life sentences for certain crimes. There’s a new law to regulate supposed “foreign agents”, and a “cybercrimes” law, better known as the “Gag law”. With these, the regime is recognizing the failure of the police state. The repression never succeeded in squashing the civic protests. Even without massive demonstrations, the spirit of the resistance remains intact.  Despite the National Coalition’s stumbles and the lack of a united national front, today the resistance is greater and better organized. It now has a presence in all of the country’s municipalities.

In the next two weeks, the regime’s parliamentary steamroller will assure the approval of that combo of punitive laws. These impose severe jail sentences for any and all opposition, a majority who represent over three-fourths of the electorate.

However, in reality, the regime has never needed legal pretexts to repress and imprison. Almost two years ago, the police assaulted the offices of Confidencial and Esta Semana and executed a de facto confiscationThis was done without the backing of any judicial orders. Yet, despite the television censorship, they never silenced us. We continue our truth-based journalism. Meanwhile the independent press – persecuted, harassed and sometimes exiled – now enjoys much more credibility and influence than the official machinery.

The latest Cid-Gallup polls confirm that the majority of the population no longer believes the government’s lies about COVID-19. The express burials and the Ministry of Health statistics on pneumonia fatalities and COVID-19 tests speak for themselves. These facts refute the daily monologues of Vice President Rosario Murillo.  Because of that deception, every day political support for Ortega and the FSLN shrinks still more. His backing among the public employees, both civilian and military, continues eroding.

In reality, the “Gag Law” is aimed at threatening the honest and professional public servants. It is meant to keep them from leaking information to the press and the public regarding acts of political corruption.  Such acts are occurrences that the regime wishes to hide.

The “Cybercrimes Law” also threatens users of social media with jail time. However, the dictatorship will continue losing the battle for the truth in social media. They can’t control the massive exercise of free speech and the use of new information technologies now at the service of citizens.

These punitive laws aren’t a symptom of strength, but rather of the political and moral defeat of a minority regime. Why, then, does Ortega need to impose them against wind and tides?  There are at least three hypotheses to explain this imperious political necessity.  All are based on the regime’s urgency to adapt the Cuban and Venezuelan “model” of repressive authoritarianism to Nicaragua.

First, they intend to make full use of the Constitution and laws as one pillar of their repressive strategy. However, they don’t want these as guardians of rights, but as a means to criminalize democratic liberties and civic protest. Clearly, it’s not a carbon copy, but this strategy definitively reflects the Cuban and Venezuelan “model”. The regime is adapting that model to fit a dynastic family dictatorship with the aim of liquidating the democratic project in Nicaragua.

Expedited by the “Law” he’s mandating, Ortega will now be able to eliminate organizations of civil society. He will also control any eventual adversaries and political competitors, by criminalizing them as “foreign agents”. The Venezuelan experience demonstrates that despite high international political costs, the Cuban “model” can prove effective in giving the regime stability. Through this model, pure and harsh repression can be draped in a “legal” mantle. For Ortega, this translates into an incentive to accumulate political hostages and gain time.

Secondly, the regime intends to take over the agenda of justice and present itself as a punisher of “hate crimes”. The latter would now carry a sentence of life in prison. This, in the end, is merely a defensive act. It responds to the need to assure the Sandinista bases that they’re not the ones under the gaze of justice.

Those accused of true “hate crimes”, crimes against humanity, crimes with no statute of limitations, are in the regime’s inner circle. The finger points to members of the Ortega-Murillo regime who are most directly tied to the repression. However, as in the April killings and the failed official narrative of an attempted “Coup d’Etat”, Ortega will point the finger elsewhere. He’ll try to convince his followers that his own hate crimes can be attributed to the victims.

Thirdly, although the Nicaraguan Constitution proclaims political pluralism, this combo of punitive laws assures there’ll be no competitive elections. With these laws, Ortega has ratified his stance for the November 2021 elections. Given this, it’s illusory to expect some electoral opening from a regime that’s willing to play All or Nothing. Though they risk further international sanctions and a declaration of illegitimacy, they’ll be celebrating the elections with no competition and without transparency.

Will we arrive at the opening of the 2021 electoral campaign without a political reform?  The answer to this interrogative doesn’t depend on Ortega, but on the political opposition.  Ortega has already decided to radicalize his authoritarian model. Meanwhile, the opposition continues to be paralyzed. They’re discussing which electoral box is the safest, in imaginary elections in which they haven’t even been invited to participate.

Meanwhile, the national debate must center itself on determining the most effective strategy. The opposition must work on joining forces, weakening the regime, and altering the balance of power. They must thus force a political reform on the regime, one that results from national and international pressure. First, the reform, with or without Ortega, and later free elections.


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