HomeNewsAnalysisNicaragua Anti-Terrorism Law Could Criminalize Opposition
ANALYSIS

Nicaragua Anti-Terrorism Law Could Criminalize Opposition

EL SALVADOR / 25 JUL 2018 BY PARKER ASMANN EN

Lawmakers in Nicaragua recently approved an anti-terrorism law that many fear will be used to criminalize the opposition amid a deepening political crisis, a tactic that has been used by other governments throughout the region for political ends.

On July 16, lawmakers in Nicaragua approved an anti-terrorism law against money laundering, financing terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, according to a government press release.

The law was presented to Nicaragua’s National Assembly in April, where the governing Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional – FSLN) holds the majority, according to El Nuevo Diario. It was approved amid a political crisis that is growing worse every day.

Anyone who kills or injures somebody not directly participating in a “situation of armed conflict,” or who destroys or damages public or private property, can be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison, according to the new legislation. Anyone found guilty of directly or indirectly financing or aiding so-called terrorist operations can also face up to 20 years in prison.

SEE ALSO: Nicaragua News and Profile

FSLN deputy Walmaro Gutiérrez described the law as something that will provide the government with the "necessary and sufficient tools" needed to "effectively combat" money laundering, organized crime, terrorism and drug trafficking.

But international observers such as the United Nations and opposition politicians fear that the new law will be used by President Daniel Ortega to criminalize protesters and place them in prison. There are also concerns that it may be used to target members of non-governmental organizations and the church, which have defended the anti-government protestors.

Since anti-government protests began in April, human rights organizations have recorded more than 350 deaths and over 2,000 injuries. The vast majority of the violence has been ordered by Ortega himself and carried out by pro-government paramilitary groups working in conjunction with the national police.

InSight Crime Analysis

The creation and use of anti-terrorism laws directed at members of the opposition or criminal organizations is a tactic that has been employed by other governments throughout the region. 

Lawmakers in El Salvador, for example, classified the country’s violent gangs as terrorist organizations through a 2016 legislative reform as the government doubled down on hard-line security measures to combat rising violence connected to the gangs. However, the move has arguably had the opposite impact to that intended -- gangs and their criminal activities have grown more sophisticated in response to these measures, and El Salvador is still one of the region’s most violent countries.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Security Policy

The administration of Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro has also used similar rhetoric to discredit those opposed to his regime, which InSight Crime recently argued resembles a “mafia state.” After authorities killed a prominent opposition leader in a high-powered firefight in January 2018, authorities described the individual as the leader of a “terrorist group.”

Both Ortega and Maduro have branded opposition protesters as “terrorists” and “vandals” in an effort to further criminalize their movements. They have also utilized armed pro-government groups, known as "colectivos" in Venezuela and "turbas" in Nicaragua, to violently repress those in the opposition, at times with deadly force.

However, such tactics have largely failed to quell widespread unrest or criminal activity, and have instead exacerbated such activities. The crisis in Nicaragua has spiraled out of control since peaceful protesters were met with “rabid and disproportionate force” from police and paramilitary groups.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 2 APR 2012

Prosecutors in El Salvador ordered the arrest of eight soldiers and one civilian linked to an arms trafficking network that…

EL SALVADOR / 3 SEP 2012

El Salvador’s elite anti-terrorism unit will join police in patrolling the bus routes most vulnerable to extortion by criminal gangs,…

ELITES AND CRIME / 17 FEB 2017

Members of the US Congress have introduced a resolution supporting the anti-corruption efforts of several Central American governments, showing the…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…

THE ORGANIZATION

Coverage of Fallen Paraguay Prosecutor Makes Headlines

20 MAY 2022

The murder of leading anti-crime prosecutor, Marcelo Pecci, while on honeymoon in Colombia, has drawn attention to the evolution of organized crime in Paraguay. While 17 people have been arrested…