Nicaragua revokes licenses of number of aid organizations: NPR

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NPR’s Noel King speaks with Oxfam’s Simon Ticehurst about the charity and others expelled from Nicaragua, amid a crackdown that escalates months before a presidential election.



STEVE INSKEEP, HTE:

Nicaragua faces multiple crises – some areas face drought, while others have faced hurricanes and floods. Now the aid groups, which are there to help, are being kicked out. President Daniel Ortega accuses them of not respecting a new law on transparency. Oxfam Regional Director Simon Ticehurst spoke to Noel and said Ortega aims to consolidate power ahead of the elections this fall.

SIMON TICHURST: We learned that, like the general public, through the government gazette. Basically, they gave us 72 hours to shut down our operations. I mean, we’re talking about a significant amount of funding that we’ve funneled into Nicaragua. Like last year, nearly $ 5 million and 130,000 beneficiaries.

NOEL KING, BYLINE: When you opened the newspaper in the morning and heard that you and many other organizations that were there to help were suspended, did someone call and call the Ortega government and say, guys, what is happening here? We try to help and you tell us we can’t? Like, what was this conversation?

TICHURST: Yeah, well, that conversation didn’t happen. A new law has been introduced, and under this new law, of course, all of those registrations are now canceled. It is therefore very difficult to comply with the new legislation. We tried, and the government asked us for more information, new formats. They kind of continue to make it more difficult. And, you know, there is an economic recession linked to COVID. There is a public health crisis. There is a political crisis, which exploded with the protests of 2018. And now we have come to a kind of very sensitive moment in the preparation of the elections, and we are witnessing a crackdown on civic activity.

KING: And immediately, the suspension of all these licenses, what will be the direct impact? Are we talking about hungry people, thirsty people, rough sleepers? What are you most concerned about over the next four to six weeks, say?

TICHURST: I mean, the suspension of our humanitarian programs is probably the most immediate impact, and it affects food aid. So, food packages are distributed with cereals, pasta, cooking oil, maybe nutritional packages for young children, accompanied by sanitary hygiene – you know, prevention programs that try to reduce the risk. contagion of COVID.

KING: Is there any way right now that you or any of these other organizations can still work in Nicaragua? I just think of all those people you help. Are they fair – no one is helping anymore?

TICHURST: Well, right now we have a big job just complying with what the government has asked us to do in terms of delivering our accounts. And terminating contracts – both, you know, legal contracts, employment contracts – is a big task. So we have to eliminate that. But we certainly want to explore how we can contribute and how we can continue to collaborate with the Nicaraguan people in the future.

KING: Should Nicaragua’s neighboring countries and perhaps even more distant countries like the United States expect an influx of refugees?

TICHURST: We can see it already. So last month, in July, 13,000 claimed refugee status in Costa Rica – probably a similar number in the United States. Therefore, there must be special consideration for Nicaraguans right now, and that will likely increase as we get closer to the elections.

KING: Simon, thank you very much for your time. We really appreciate this.

TICHURST: Thanks, Noel. Thank you.

(EXTRACT FROM FEVERKIN’S “SILHOUETTE”)

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