REPORT ON THE
SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
POLITICAL RIGHTS /
A. General Considerations
1. Domestic Nicaraguan laws guarantee free exercise of the political rights set forth in the American Convention on Human Rights and other international instruments to which Nicaragua is a party.
2. The prime function of the Government of national Reconstruction, as stated in paragraph II of the Preamble to the Fundamental Statute, “shall be to restore the peace, lay the bases for the institution of a democratic system of government with deep popular roots, and undertake the great task of political, social and economic reconstruction of the nation, for which adequate legal order is required.”
Article 8 recognizes the freedom of political and trade-union organization, the sole limitations being those deriving from the Statute on the Rights and Guarantees of Nicaraguans.
3. While the Fundamental Statute does not contain an express provision guaranteeing ideological pluralism, this may be inferred from the Preamble and Article 8 quoted above, and from the provisions concerning the organization and operations of the Council of State, which have been examined elsewhere in this report. /
4. Title II of the statute on the Rights and Guarantees of Nicaraguans discusses individual, civil and political rights. Article 3 of this title, together with Article 7 of the Fundamental Statute, set forth the principle of the equality of all Nicaraguans, without discrimination of any kind, and places an obligation on the State to use all means within its power to remove obstacles that, de facto, impede such equality. It also establishes the participation of citizens in the political, economic and social life of the country.
Article 25, paragraph a, b, c, and d, of the Statute of Rights and Guarantees of Nicaraguans recognizes that all citizens have the unrestricted right to form and join political parties or organizations, and to participate in the conduct of public affairs; it establishes the rights of petition and the right to elect and be elected, and to have access, under general conditions of equality, to public service.
Similarly, Article 23 of the Statute guarantees the right of peaceful assembly, and the right of public demonstration, subject to the regulations established by law.
B. The Change in the membership of the Council of State
1. On July 29, 1979, as a result of the events discussed in the initial pages of this report, the Government of National Reconstruction decreed the creation of the Council of State, made up of 33 members representatives of the various political forces and social organizations that had participated in the military civilian movement that overthrew the Government of General Somoza.
The membership of this Council of State, which sough to maintain a fair balance among these forces and organizations, was constituted as the result of negotiations and consultations held between them during the time before the overthrow:
- The Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), members . /
- Movimiento Pueblo Unido (MPU) (United People’s Movement), 6 members. /
- Partido Liberal Independiente )PLI) (Independent Liberal Party), 1 member. 
- Agrupación de los 12 (Group of 12), 1 member. /
- Partido Popular Social Cristiano (PPSC) (Christian Social Popular Party), 1 member. /
- Central de Trabajadores de Nicaragua (CTN) (Nicaraguan Workers central Office), 1 member. /
- Frente Obrero (FO) (Workers Front), 1 member. /
- Sindicato de Radio Periodistas (Radio Journalists Union). 1 member. /
- Partido Conservador Democrático (CD) (Democratic Conservative Party), 1 member. /
- Partido Social Cristiano Nicaraguense (PSC) (Nicaraguan Christian Social Party), 1 member. /
- Movimiento Democrático Nicaraguense (MDC) (Nicaraguan Democratic Movement), 1 member. /
- Movimiento Liberal Constitucionalista (MLC) (Constitutionalist Liberal Movement), 1 member /
- Partido Socialista Nicaraguense (PSN) (Nicaraguan Socialist Party), 1 member. /
- Confederación General del Trabajo Independiente (CGT) (Independent General Labor Confederation), 1 member. /
- Confederación de Unificación Sindical (CUS) (Trade Union Unification Confederation), 1 member /
- Instituto Nicaraguense de Desarrollo (Nicaraguan Development Institute), 1 member /
- Cámara de Industrias de Nicaragua (CADIN) (Chamber of Industry of Nicaragua), 1 member. /
- Confederación de Cámaras de Comercio de Nicaragua (Confederation of Chambers of Commerce of Nicaragua), 1 member. 18/
- Cámara Nicaraguense de la Construcción (Nicaraguan Chamber of Construction), 1 member 18/
- Unión de Productores Agropecuarios de Nicaragua (UPANIC) (Union of Agricultural Producers of Nicaragua), 1 member. 18/
- Confederación de Asociaciones Profesionales de Nicaragua (CONAPRO), (confederation of Professional Associations of Nicaragua), 1 member. 18/
- Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua (UNAN) (Autonomous National University of Nicaragua), 1 member
- Asociación Nacional del Clero (National Association of Clergy), 1 member.
2. The first major break in the unity of the Junta of the Government of National Reconstruction occurred in April 1980, over the changes in the Council of State. These changes were one of the reasons for the resignation of one of its members, Alfonso Robelo Callejas.
3. Decree No. 374 published in “La Gaceta” of April 22, 1980 amended Article 16 of the Fundamental Statute to change the membership of the Council of State. Both from the point of view of a number of members (it was increased to 47 members, and as regards the organizations that would be represented on it. Some entities were no longer to be represented: The Movimiento Constitucionalista, the Frente Obrero, Movimiento Pueblo Unido (dissolved of its own accord) and the Group of 12 (dissolved of its own accord); the following organizations were now to be included: AMNLAF; CST (Central Sandinista de Trabajadores (Sandinista Workers Central Office) /; ATC (Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo) (Association of Field Workers); / ; the CDS (Comité de Defensa Sandinista) (Sandinista Defense Committee); Juventud Sandinista 19 de Julio, CAUS Central de Acción y Unidad Sindical) (Trade Union Action and Unity Central Office) /; The Armed forces; MISURASATA (Asociación de Misquitos, Sumos y Ramos) /; ANDEN (Asociación Nacional de Educadores) (national Association of Educators); FETSALUD (Federación de Trabajadores de la Salud) (Health Workers Federation); there was increased representation of the CGT, and the representative of the UNAN (Autonomous national University) was replaced y the representative of the senior Co8ncil of Higher Education, and the representative of the Radio Journalists Union was replaced y a representative of the Union de Periodistas Nicaraguense (Nicaraguan Journalists Union).
4. The following table shows the composition of the Council of State. /
5. Some Political parties and private enterprise protested over what they called the “unilateral alteration of the membership of the Council of State”, which, according to the, meant that the future structure of the Council of State would be dominated by Sandinista groups.
6. On November 12, 1980, eleven political, economic and labor groups withdrew their representatives from the Council of State in protest. Because, according to reports obtained by the Commission, they considered that the Government had strayed from the original lines of the program of the Government of National Unity and from the provisions of the Fundamental Statute.
The delegates of the Sandinista National Liberation Front headed by Commander Carlos Nuñez rejected the charges, and in turn accused the organizations withdrawing from the Council of State of sabotaging the national unity program and of being in agreement with counter-revolutionary conspiracy plans.
7. On November 13, 1980, Dr. Sergio Ramírez Mercado, a member of the government Junta. Speaking to a group of students who had amassed outside Government House to back the Junta and the Sandinista Front, urged the opposition to begin a dialogue to strengthen national unity, which they were the first to be convinced was necessary to rebuild the country. He added that the dialogue ought to be a dialogue without blackmail, and that the sectors that were maneuvering against the popular power of the revolution ought first to resume their seats in the Council of State.
In a virtual reply to the appeal by Dr. Ramírez Mercado, Alfonso Robelo Callejas, Present of the MDN. Said later that he was always open to a high-level dialogue to reestablish the national unity that was so essential to carrying on the revolutionary process and democratize the country, and added that such a dialogue should be above-board.
8. In Mid-December 1980, the annual assembly of COSEP announced a third alternative for resolving Nicaragua’s political problems. In a document read on that occasion by the President of the Organization, the Government was again urged to return to the original lines of the Government Program, and COSEP said that it was open to a national, patriotic dialogue that would lead to reestablishment of national unity.
Dr. Arturo J. Cruz, at that time a member of the Government Junta, said on December 22, 1980 that the Government and private enterprise should stop what he said was the sterile, verbal duel that they were supposedly engaged in.
9. As stated above, the membership of the Council of State was changed in May 1981, by Decree No. 718, and the number of members was increased by four. These new members were: one (1) member from the Movimiento Liberal Constitucionalista, whose representative had been removed in the earlier changes; two (2) members from la Unión Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos (UNAG), and one (1) from the Eje Ecuménico MEC-CELA-DEC, Organizations that had not appeared in either the original membership nor in the membership as expanded by Decree No. 374.
10. In June, Nicaraguan began a dialogue called the “Forum for Discussion of National Problems.” It was convened by the FSLN, and the participants were firstly, those political parties that agreed to call themselves parties supporting the revolution: these were the FSLN, the Independent Liberal Party (PLI), the Nicaraguan Socialist Party (PSN), the Christian Social Popular Party (PPSC), the Communist Party (PC), and the Popular Action Movement (MAP). And secondly, there were all the other political parties in the country, with the sole exception of the Democratic Conservative Party (PCD), which had agreed to call themselves parties supporting the revolution but dissenting over the way it was being conducted: the Nicaraguan Democratic Movement party (MDN), the Christian Social Party (PSC), the Social democratic Party (PSD), the Constitutionalist Liberal Movement (MLC), and the Nicaraguan Workers, Central Office (CTN).
By June 27, 1981, the parties participating in the dialogue recognized that the purpose of the forum was to forge practical agreements that would contribute to national peace and harmony. They reached nineteen points of agreement, which were published in the June 28 issue of the Nuevo Diario. As of the time of writing, the dialogue is still under way.
C. The Electoral process and
1. On a number of occasions, the FSLN had suggested, through its spokesmen and members of its national leadership, what its position was on the call from some sectors for elections within a short space of time. The most significant statement on this was made initially by Commander René Nuñez, who in March 1980 said that “during the 1979 insurrection, the people of Nicaragua elected their present government with their blood, thus denying the possibility of holding elections in the short or medium-term.
Similarly, Commander Daniel Ortega, member of the Government Junta and of the National Directorate of the FSLN, said on May 13, 1980 that the Government Junta was anticipating elections, which would not elect clearly defined and that had obtained popular backing. Commander Ortega also stressed at that time the importance of the literacy campaign being carried out in the country, saying that by learning to read and write, the Nicaraguan people would put themselves in a position to obtain the knowledge that would better enable them to choose their own destiny.
2. On August 23, 1980, during the ceremony closing the national Literacy Campaign, Commander Humberto Ortega read the following communiqué as part of this speech:
OFFICIAL STATEMENT BY THE NATIONAL DIRECTORATE
OF THE SANDINISTA NATIONAL LIBERATION FRONT ON THE ELECTORAL PROCESS
IN THE SANDINISTA POPULAR REVOLUTION
TO: THE ENTIRE HEROIC PEOPLE OF NICARAGUA AND FRIENDLY PEOPLES OF THE WORLD
FROM: THE NATIONAL DIRECTORATE OF THE SANDINISTA NATIONAL LIBERATION FRONT
1. For the Sandinista Front, democracy is not measured only in political terms, nor is it confined merely to participation in elections. It is more, much more. For a revolutionary, for a Sandinista, it means PARTICIPATION by the people in political, economic, social and cultural affairs. The more the people take part in these things, the more it will be democratic. And it must be said once and for all, democracy does not begin and end with elections. It is a myth to want to reduce democracy to that. Democracy begins in the economic order, when social inequalities begin to weaken, when workers and peasants improve their standard of living. This is the beginning of true democracy – and never before.
Once these objectives are achieved, it then moves into other fields: it expands into the filed of government, when the people influence their government, when the people determine their government, like it or not.
However, at a more advanced stage, democracy means participation by workers in the management of factories, farms, cooperatives and cultural centers. In sum, democracy is intervention by the masses in all aspects of social life. We have said this in order to state clearly, as a matter of principle, what the Sandinista national Liberation Front understands by democracy.
Despite, this, the Sandinista Front believes that constructive criticism is the only kind of profitable criticism. Disagreement and pluralism will continue to be essential components of the SANDININSTA DEMOCRACY. But it points or that the criticisms that ought to be taken into account are, fundamentally, the criticisms made by the workers, because these are the most disinterested, genuinely sincere and revolutionary, kinds of criticism.
2. The National Directorate of the Sandinista national liberation Front reaffirms to the Nicaraguan people and to the world that the revolutionary process taking place in our country cannot go backward, and that it will continue onward to the ultimate consequences. There must not be the slightest doubt that it is a REVOLUTION that is underway today, and that it was to make a revolution that at the head of the Nicaraguan people, the Sandinista National Liberation Front took power on July 19, 1979, after 18 years of struggle and at the cost of almost 100,000 lives.
3. The responsibility we took on in conducting the war of liberation led us to examine the concrete realities of our country. We were thus able to assess the backwardness and the state of economic, social and moral destruction in which the victorious Revolution would find the country.
For these reasons, we seriously proposed that when victory was achieved, we should begin a PROCESS OF NATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION as the first great step in the Sandinista Popular Revolution.
4. Once in power, the Sandinista Front, as the true vanguard and leader of the Nicaraguan people, decided to install a Government junta that would organize and head the work of the Government, supported by the work of the people to make national reconstruction possible.
5. One year after the Revolution, we can responsibly say that the country’s backwardness and its economic, social and moral destruction are so profound and widespread that the nation cannot be expected to be reconstructed before 1985; the national Directorate of the Sandinista Front has therefore decided that the GOVERNMENT JUNTA must continue to lead the work of government until 1985.
6. Therefore, our worker people, our workers and peasants, our young people and women, professionals and businessmen, patriots devoted to national reconstruction must be ready in 1985 to elect the government program and the country’s best men to take charge of government and continue to push forward the work of our Revolution.
7. In January 1984, the JUNTA OF THE GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION must, in order to make this victory of the people of Sandino a reality, begin the electoral process by which Nicaraguan will determine the Government that will continue to build the NEW NICARAGUA, the Nicaragua dreamed of by SANDINO, RIGOBERTO and CARLOS FONSECA.
LIBERTY OR DEATH!
SANDINO YESTERDAY, SANDINO TODAY, SANDINO FOREVER!
NATIONAL DIRECTORATE OF THE SANDINISTA
NATIONAL LIBERATION FRONT
Commander Ortega then added:
As you will all have understood, the elections that we are talking about are very different from the elections sought by the oligarchs and traitors, the conservatives and liberals, the reactionaries and the imperialists, the “gang of villains”, as Sandino called them.
These elections are different from those, which Sandino spoke of when he was fighting against intervention: “do not obey a single order from the Yankee marines in the farce of the election. No one is obliged to go to the ballot box and there is no law compelling them to do so. Be worthy of freedom, be deserving of it.” Our elections will not be those elections imposed by the American gringos.
They are the elections imposed by you, by the working people, by the Sandinista Youth, by the national Directorate of this Revolution. Such will be our elections. Remember that they are elections to improve the power of the revolution, but they are not a raffle to see who has power, because the people have the power through their vanguard, the Sandinista National Liberation Front and its National Directorate.
3. At its meetings on August 27 and 28, 1980, the Council of State took up and adopted a draft law sent to it by the Government Junta, which prohibited any political campaigning or other elections-related activity before 1984. In the course of the debate, the representatives of various political parties voiced their opposition to the law, saying that the date was far off, and that it was limiting the activities of the political parties, because they were being prevented from stepping up their programs and proposals for an electoral process that would allow Nicaraguans to have the possibility of choosing the party or program they thought was best, and to air the best answers to the problems of our national reconstruction.
4. The text of the Decree reads as follows:
The Junta of the Government of the National Reconstruction of the Republic of Nicaragua,
That one year after the beginning of the Sandinista Popular Revolution, it has been concluded after an in-depth study that the country’s backwardness and economic, social and moral destruction is of such magnitude that the bases for its reconstruction cannot be achieved before 1985;
That democracy begins in the economic order, when social inequalities begin to weaken and when workers and peasants improve their standard of living, and
That our patriotic worker people, professionals and businessmen, and other social forces are devoted to reconstruction of the country,
Therefore, in exercise of its authority, it DECREES the following LAW DETERMINING THE TIME FOR THE ELECTORAL PROCESS.
Art. 1. The electoral process whereby Nicaraguans will determine the Government that will continue to build the new Nicaragua must begin in January 1984.
Art. 2. The elections that will be the culmination of this electoral process will take place in 1985.
Art. 3. As a result, all nominations or designations of candidates for positions in the general elections are prohibited prior to 1984, and public campaigning for such nominations is prohibited until authorized by the electoral agency that will be created in that year for that purpose; this is without prejudice to the political activity guaranteed in the Fundamental Statute and in the statute of the Rights and Guarantees of Nicaraguans.
Violations of the provisions of this article shall be punished by the sanctions set forth in Article 4 of the Law on Maintenance of Public Order and Security, according to the procedure determined in that law.
Art. 4. The present law shall enter into effect on the moment of its publication in any mass communications media, its subsequent publication in “La Gaceta”, the Official Gazette, notwithstanding.
5. In its session held on September 1, 1980, the Council of State rejected a draft law regarding the functioning of political parties.
6. The political parties, that had been pointing out the need for elections—PCDN, MDN, PSD, PSC—published a joint communiqué in the newspaper La Prensa on September 14, 1980, which stated as follows: that the decree determining the time for the electoral process had seriously confused the nation’s legal structure, because while the Junta of the Government of National Reconstruction appeared in the Fundamental Statute as the nation’s highest authority, its functions were felt to be limited armed political party. They added that despite the fact that the decree did not contradict any of the requests the parties had made in an earlier necessary to contribute to creating the climate of confidence and security that was needed to make good progress on reconstructing and democratizing the country. It did not specify how the elections would be conducted, and did not determine the date for the election of the national Constituent Assembly of for the municipal elections prior to the elections of the higher authorities.
Because of this, the above-mentioned political parties presented the following demands in their document: a. that an official declaration be issued explaining the hierarchy of the structure of government, thus clearing up the confusion existing in the nation’s legal order; b. approval of a draft law on municipal elections and elections to the National Constituent Assembly; c. promulgation of a law guaranteeing and regulating the functioning of political parties and ideological pluralism, and electoral law and a law guaranteeing the autonomy of the municipalities.
7. In a paid announcement in the newspaper La Prensa of November 12, 1980, COSEP revealed a document entitled “Analysis of the implementation of the program of the Government of National Reconstruction.” In dealing with the political arena, it made the following statements:
There are political parties in Nicaragua. However, no law on political parties has been enacted to institutionalize their existence….
The FSLN is in fact a political party, but it avoids defining itself as such, causing confusion between the Government, the party and the FSLN.
The FSLN unilaterally uses confiscated television, radio and newspaper, makes use of the economic and material resources of the state to campaign for the FSLN among the masses; quasi-State Sandinista organizations have been created with physical resources of the state such as buildings, and economic resources to conduct the propaganda activities of these FSLN organizations.
It is felt hat the FSLN has imposed its idea of the elections on the Government Junta by ordering it to begin the electoral process in 1984, to culminate in 1985 with the election of “the best men and government programs,” without specifying what these elections will be like; however, it was said that the elections would not be a raffle for pow3er, because power is already in the hands of the people through its vanguard, the FSLN.
In its declaration of August 23, 1980, the FSLN stated its intention of remaining in power forever and of implementing an election system limited to changing people at levels of government that are not decisive in policy decision-making.
The operations of the Government Junta are predicated on the political will of the FSLN, which has three members on the five-member Junta.
The Junta has already accepted the supremacy of the national Directorate of the FSLN.
When two members of the Junta resigned, the FSLN National Directorate unilaterally and without consultation, replaced them by simply appointing people to the positions. This procedure confirms the supremacy of the FSLN National Directorate over the Government Junta, which in practice, has become the executor of its will.
This irregular situation of submission to the political will of the FSLN party makes a pluralist national unity Government into a Government of the FSLN party with a veneer of political pluralism.
The FSLN members of the Government Junta imposed their will and increased the number of members of the Council of State to 47, in violation of what all sectors had agreed on.
All the organizations that were added are controlled by the FSLN, which thus acquired for itself a majority on the Council of State.
The overwhelming majority on the Council of State of organizations controlled by the FSLN has consolidated the power block of the FSLN political party in the Council of State, enabling it to impose its political will at any time.
8. It is the Commission’s view that the lack of a law guaranteeing and regulating the functioning of political parties, together with the postponement of general elections until 1985 is having an effect on the existence of an authentically democratic system, to which the Government of National Reconstruction has committed itself. The Commission understands the particular conditions in Nicaragua, which would have made it impossible to hold elections immediately after the victory of the Revolution; at the same time, however, it believes that the date proposed for calling the elections is too far off, particularly considering that public campaigning for candidates in the general election is prohibited until 1984.
 Article 23 of the American Convention on Human Rights states: “Right to participate in Government. 1. Every citizen shall enjoy the following rights and opportunities: a) to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives; b) to vote and to be elected in genuine periodic elections, which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and by secret ballot that guarantees the free expression of the will of the voters; and c) to have access, under general conditions of equality, to the public service of this country. 2. The Law may regulate the exercise of the rights and opportunities referred to in the preceding paragraph only on the basis of age, or sentencing by competent court in criminal proceedings.”
 See Chapter I, A, pages 23’25.
 Political-military movement founded in 1960 by Carlos Fonseca Amador, Tomás Borge Martínez, and Silvio Mayorga. The headed the insurrection against the Government of General Somoza in 1978 and 1979.
 Mass organization bringing together a number of popular organizations, which chiefly organized in the poor outlying sections of the cities.
 Political party formed by dissidents of the Partido Liberal Nacionalista (the Somoza party) in 1944. Currently, in addition to its member on the Council of State, the Minister of Labor is militant of this party.
 Political group opposing the Government of Somoza, founded by 12 major Nicaraguan figures of differing ideologies. It played an important role in the fight to overthrow General Somoza, and was subsequently dissolved because it considered its mission was accomplished.
 Born in 1976 as a result of a division in the Partido Social Cristiano. The Deputy Minister of Labor is a member of this party. Its top leader is Mr. Edgar Macía Gómez.
 Emerged in 1962 as an affiliate of CLAT (Latin American Confederation of Workers). Represents the Christian trade unions line.
 A political trade-union organization that emerged in 1974, Marxist in tendency.
 This organization joined in 1979 with those mentioned above to from what was called the Frente Patriótico Nacional (National Patriotic Front).
 A faction that separated from the Conservative Party. The current member of the Government Junta, Dr. Rafael Córdova Rivas, is a member of this party.
 Born in 1957, and affiliated to the Christian Organization of the Americas (ODECS). Its President is Dr. Eduardo Rivas Gasteazoro.
 Born in 1978, of a social democratic tendency, bringing together progressive businessmen and professionals. It has become a political party, and its leader, Mr. Alfonso Robelo Callejas, was a member of the Junta of the Government of National Reconstruction.
 This movement was born of a schism in the nationalist Liberal Party that occurred in 1967. Its founder and leader is Dr. Ramiro Sacasa Guerrero.
 Has its origins in the thirties, and is pro-Soviet.
 Has its origins in the thirties, and is the trade-union arm of the Nicaraguan Socialist Party (PSN). Its leader is Mr. Luis Sánchez Sancho.
 Born in 1972. This organization and the 6 mentioned above represent the Frente Amplio Opositor (FAO) (Broad Opposition Front) in the Council of State.
 These organizations represent the Consejo Superior de la Prensa Privada (COSEP) (Higher Private Business Council) in the Council of State,
 Born in 1979. The Trade-union arm of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).
 Born in 1979. Trade-union arm of the FSLN.
 Born in 1966. The Trade-Union arm of the Nicaraguan Communist Party.
 Ethnic groups living on the Atlantic Coast.
 As indicated in Chapter I, the membership of the Council of state was again amended by Decree No. 718 of May 2, 1981. The 47 members shown in the second column were joined by 4 new members. See Chapter I, section b, and page 24.