NicaNotes: Nicaraguan ‘human rights’ director accused by staff of massive theft of US taxpayer money, death toll inflation

August 7, 2019

By Nan McCurdy

Reprinted from The Grayzone

ANPDH’s board members are accusing their director of stealing huge sums from US soft power organizations and inflating death tolls during last year’s coup attempt in Nicaragua. The OAS, which relied heavily on ANPDH’s flawed data, has kept silent so far.

A year after a US-backed coup attempt rocked Nicaragua, a major scandal is unfolding over the alleged theft of half a million dollars in US taxpayer money by an organization at the center of the destabilization effort.

Three board members of the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (ANPDH) have denounced their former director Álvaro Leiva, accusing him of stealing almost half a million dollars in funding provided by the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy and other US soft power outfits.

The board members have also accused Leiva of “altering the number of deaths and injuries in the ANPDH reports in order to ask for more resources from North American donors, which totally invalidates the credibility of those reports,” according to Nicaraguan journalist Adolfo Pastran.

During the regime-change attempt, which lasted from April 18 through July of last year, ANPDH claims there were more than 400 dead, inflating the death toll by at least 150 and falsely blaming the government for each death.  ANPDH also exaggerated the numbers of detained, wounded, and disappeared – of which there was only one – Bismarck Martinez, a Sandinista who was kidnapped on June 29, 2018, and found murdered in May of this year. Videos of the horrendous torture of Martinez were found on the cell phones of his torturers following their arrest.

As The Grayzone reported, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS) relied heavily on the flawed data of ANDPH in its own lopsided report on the 2018 crisis in Nicaragua.

The ANDPH was founded in Miami in 1986 under President Ronald Reagan to clean up the dirty war his CIA was waging against Nicaragua.  Awarded an initial US$3 million from Congress in 1987, the group was charged with improving the human rights image of the US-backed Contras while zeroing in on alleged abuses by the Sandinista Front government. The ANPDH has received US funding ever since with a strong upswing in 2018, when the operation to topple President Daniel Ortega kicked into gear.

This July 23, ANPDH’s board of directors placed a complaint against Leiva for stealing nearly a half million US dollars, falsifying signatures and altering financial reports.

Gustavo Bermúdez, a member of ANDPH’s board said that included in the US$443,876 received by Leiva was US$45,000 in 2017 and US$60,000 in April 2018 from the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy. He reaped an additional $28,876 received in 2017 from the US National Democratic Institute and $310,000 from the Open Society Foundations of anti-communist billionaire George Soros between 2017 and 2019.

 Bermúdez is a journalist and widely recognized opponent of Ortega and the Sandinista Front, making the accusations more difficult to dismiss.

Leiva, for his part, says he is the “victim of a conspiracy” overseen by the “dictatorship” of Ortega that aims to punish him for his human rights work. He has attacked his former colleague, Bermúdez, as part of a “fifth column of sophisticated people who dress in sheep’s clothes and are wolves in practice.”

President of the Criminal bench of the Supreme Court Francisco Rosales said, in an interview with Nicaraguan journalist Adolfo Pastran, that Leiva’s alleged actions violate the Criminal Code, the Constitution, and the law against terrorism and money laundering and are crimes prosecutable ex officio. “What has been said is very serious; they themselves have discredited their reports and confirmed that they put live people on their lists of dead,” Rosales said.

Pastran said that Leiva could be accused of laundering money through two bank accounts in two Nicaraguan banks. He also noted, “Given the seriousness of the complaints against Leiva, none of the national newspapers, radio and TV stations that lauded the ANPDH reports on numbers of dead and shared them internationally, have said or printed a word”. 

“The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS) has not commented despite the fact that their reports were fed with information, now proven fraudulent, from the ANPDH, as well as the reports of Americas Watch, Amnesty International and the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, which would indicate that all those reports are flawed. Even some Catholic bishops who gave statements using ANPDH data are profoundly silent,” Pastran noted.

“Leiva left Nicaragua in 2018 along with treasurers José Luis Rodríguez Reyes and Zaira Gabriela Hernández Espinoza with whom he formed a new non-governmental organization (NGO) in Costa Rica and with whom he intends to continue raising resources,” Gustavo Bermúdez said.

Briefs

By Nan McCurdy

Open Heart Surgery for Ten Children
On August 5, specialists from the Manuel de Jesús Rivera Children’s Hospital (called “La Mascota”) together with a brigade of Colombian doctors began open heart surgeries on ten children with congenital heart problems, announced Dr. María Eugenia Prado, coordinator of heart surgery at the center. The operations are carried out free of charge and the patients and relatives receive care during their recovery.  (Radiolaprimerisima, 8/6/19)

Flu Vaccinations Available for Children, Teens and Seniors
On August 5, The Ministry of Health launched the second national vaccination campaign against influenza, which aims to provide the vaccine to children age six and older and to seniors. The Campaign begins in Managua vaccinating 143,000 people. “Since our government is very responsible we are always ahead, bringing health to our people. Vaccinations will be available at all Health Centers during August and September,” said Dr. Ligia Aragon. Nicaragua is now producing flu vaccine in a plant built with the assistance of Russia. (Radiolaprimerisima, 8/6/19)

Nicaragua Ending Dependence on Oil Derivatives
On August 1, the President of the Nicaragua Electricity Transmission Company (ENATREL) and Minister of Energy and Mines (MEM) Salvador Mansell reported that, “In just 12 years the Nicaragua energy grid has managed to reduce its dependence on petroleum derivatives from 72% to 39.9%, an achievement recognized by international investors as well as actors in the global energy sector.” The Minister said that work is underway on a memorandum of understanding with Soventix Caribbean SRL, a German company, for the construction of a 100 MW solar plant in the western part of the country. (Nicaragua News, 8/5/19)

Coup Leader Assaults Channel 13 Journalist at Managua Supermarket
On July 13 coup leader and recipient of amnesty Ricardo Baltodano Marcenaro assaulted journalist Suyen Cortez by pushing his phone in her face. She then began to film him and he grabbed her phone pushed it in her face and threw it on the ground. Ricardo was accused of kidnapping, torture, assault, terrorism and destruction of private and public buildings – he was considered the leader of the terrorist actions in the UPOLI (Polytechnic University) between April 18 and June. He was later among those awarded amnesty. The one caveat of the amnesty is that you must refrain from any crimes. Suyen Cortez who is a journalist for Channel 13 placed a formal complaint with the police. (Radiolaprimerisima, Informe Pastran, canal 4, canal 8, canal 13, canal 2, canal 6, Radio Ya, Redvolucion, Barricada, 7/31 and 8/1/19)

Nicaragua Once Again Recognized for its Work to Stop Drug Trafficking
The achievements of the Nicaraguan government and its commitment to the fight against drugs were highlighted in the Drug Policy Evaluation Report 2019 of the Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism (MEM) of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), published July 1, 2019. The report recognizes that Nicaragua has a national drug authority responsible for coordinating all areas of drug policy and has organized a National Anti-Drug Strategy 2018-2021, which takes into account the Sustainable Development Objectives of the United Nations Agenda 2030, as well as the human rights perspective, the gender approach and development with social inclusion.  CICAD is pleased to note that Nicaragua addresses the causes and socio-economic consequences of the drug problem. National legislation provides for the application of alternative measures to imprisonment and proportional penalties, recommending the creation of special courts for those who commit these crimes. This is yet another example of Nicaragua’s international prestige in the defense and promotion of human rights. (el19Digital, 8/1/10) 

Nicaragua Increases Clean Energy from 24% to 52% in Eleven Years
The week of July 29 saw the first national congress on Financing Climate Change related programs. Multilateral organizations and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations participated alongside leaders from all parts of the country. 

Minister of Finance Ivan Acosta stated “We have not been waiting on the issues of the COPs (Conferences of the Parties) and we have not had to wait for international financing: we have made a great effort to move forward with our own resources. Since 2007, President Daniel Ortega has mobilized resources through investment to generate clean energy. Here we had the maximum growth in the world moving from 24% of clean energy to a little more than 52% of clean energy generation and that has been a contribution to mitigation, but more is needed and that is the importance of this congress, to define the relevant issues of climate finance.” 

Minister of Environment and National Resources Sumaya Castillo said that caring for the environment has been a priority for President Ortega and Vice President Murillo for many years and since 2007 have prioritized the defense, care for, and conservation of Mother Earth including the forests and natural resources. (El19Digital, 8/1/19)

Nicaragua with Second Lowest Dengue Mortality Rate in Latin America
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Dengue Epidemiological Report, covering the period of January to June 2019, states that Nicaragua is the Latin American country with the second lowest death rate from the dengue virus. In the first six months of the year Nicaragua reported eight deaths, much lower than those of other countries in the continent. The success of Nicaragua is attributed to the Permanent Sanitation Campaign promoted by the Ministry of Health (MINSA), to strengthen the fight against the dengue-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito. (Nicaragua News, 7/31/19)

August 1 and August 10 Patron Saint Festivities – Biggest in Central America
The patron saint of Managua is St. Dominic of Guzmán. Managuans celebrate their devotion to him by taking a small statue from a church in the suburbs in procession down to a church in the city on August 1; then on August 10 he is returned in procession to the wealthy neighborhood of Santo Domingo. This is the biggest patron saint religious event in all of Central America. The government gives workers the two days off.

Moisés Absalén Pastora writes about the saint and the Managua celebration of his feast day: Very contrary to the sumptuous Catholic Church of our times, Dominic of Guzmán was a man fully devoted to the apostolic life for which he opted, and in that sense he was a man very different from the society of his time. He lived on alms and begged daily, renounced all comfort, walked barefoot. With no house of his own in which to retire to rest, with no clothes other than the ones he walked in, he was determined that his Order would be preachers, ready to go through towns to take the light of the Gospel. Of course many thought he was a madman. Dominic Guzmán died in 1221 and was canonized by Gregorio IX in 1234 and now Santo Domingo de Guzmán is the official patron of the August festivities of Managua.

What I do not understand is the relationship between the sanctity, humility and faith of Santo Domingo and the pagan bacchanal that is carried out to bring him down to Managua on August 1 and to return him on August 10. There are not a few people who pay promises for miracles received. Some of them express their gratitude even with self-scourging and we see them walking considerable distances on their knees without protection of any kind. These people have my respect for the immense faith that they have. For those who participate to express their faith, ask for peace for Nicaragua, for tolerance, and for the light of understanding to pierce the darkness of hate in which so many live.  Extracted from an article by Moisés Absalón Pastora. (El19Digital, 8/1/19)