Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

The Three Laws of Daniel Ortega

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on December 16, 2010

by David Schreiner for Americas Society / Council of the Americas, December 15th, 2010.

The Nicaraguan National Assembly passed on December 13 three laws dealing with national security and border issues, which critics worry will give President Daniel Ortega the power to create a domestic spy network and rule by force. These laws represent Ortega’s latest effort to strengthen executive authority and extend the power of the military. Legislators supporting the bills claim they are “key” to the country’s national defense. The laws’ passage comes as Nicaragua faces a border dispute with Costa Rica, though congressmen in favor of the laws argue that they “renounce aggression and the use of force.”

Ortega quickly and quietly pushed the National Security Law,National Defense Law, and the Border Law through Congress with little media attention, but The Christian Science Monitor summarizes the salient points. The National Security Law stipulates the creation of a network of “institutions specialized in intelligence and information” that will report directly to the president. The National Defense Law gives the president authority to declare martial law and launch “national mobilizations” in the name of defending against domestic and foreign threats. The Border Law gives the Army control over the border zone, creates a five-kilometer-wide Border Security Zone, and makes that land state property. Critics worry this will facilitate the militarization of the country and “convert Ortega’s presidential chair into an autocratic throne.”

Ortega’s previous efforts to strengthen executive powers focused on finding a way to overcome Nicaragua’s constitutional ban on a president running for two consecutive terms. He has posed the idea twice since April 2009, and his attempt to overturn the constitutional ban enjoyed support from three Sandinista-aligned Supreme Court judges, but elicited widespread criticism even from within the Sandinista party. (continue reading… )

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