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Nicaragua government expels ‘Red Cross’ from country

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced Monday that it shut down its office in the Nicaragua capital city of Managua at the request of Nicaraguan authorities. The closure, ICRC declared, marks the end of its humanitarian mission in the country, which began in 2018 after a mass anti-government uprising. In the following year, the ICRC opened its permanent mission in Managua and also signed an agreement with the Ortega-Murillo government to engage with political detainees.

This follows a law passed by the National Legislature, dominated by President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista Party, in May of this year, which shut down the local branch of the Red Cross and constituted a “new Nicaraguan Red Cross” or “White Cross of Nicaragua,” functioning under the Ministry of Health. The government accused it of helping injured protestors who participated in the anti-government uprising allegedly backed by the US. Properties of the former Nicaraguan Red Cross were confiscated and handed over to the government. In March 2022, it expelled ICRC Chief of Mission Thomas Ess without any justification.

The ICRC has played an instrumental role in the humanitarian crisis, caused by crackdowns on political opponents, civil society and religious groups that have been accused of attempting to destabilise the government. Over 355 people were killed, and more than 2,000 injured, in the 2018 protests. The government has been accused of following a “revolving door” strategy, whereby there is a constant chain of detention and release from prisons to “lower the political cost of mass detentions.” In 2019, the government passed an amnesty law, that sparked criticism. The ICRC helped negotiate and secure the release of over 200 political detainees in February, who were subsequently stripped of their citizenship and exiled to the US. The ICRC, in its statement, reiterated its “readiness to resume dialogue and humanitarian action in Nicaragua.”

According to the Global State of Democracy Initiative, the Ortega government has shut down over 3,000 non-governmental organisations since 2018, including the 94-year-old Nicaraguan Academy of Letter. Furthermore, in November, Nicaragua also withdrew them the Organization of American States Charter, after the OAS urged the country to end human rights violations.

Article: Nicaragua government expels Red Cross from country

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