Proposed Nicaragua law could muffle dissent

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — Nicaragua’s governing party is pushing a bill that would require people, businesses and non-governmental groups that receive money from outside the country to register as “foreign agents,” saying it is an attempt to prevent foreign interference.

The Sandinista Front of President Daniel Ortega controls 70 of the 91 seats in the National Assembly.

Once registered as a foreign agent, individuals or organizations would have to abstain from intervening in activities or areas of domestic politics. Those found in violation could face seizure of their assets.

Juan Sebastián Chamorro, executive director of the Civic Alliance opposition group, said the proposed legislation is unconstitutional. “Deep down its aim is to repress the Nicaraguan opposition,” he said.

The proposal also raised concern among independent media outlets and human rights organizations, many of which depend on foreign financial support.

The law would exempt Nicaraguans receiving remittances from relatives living abroad and foreigners living in Nicaragua receiving pensions from outside the country, as well as local branches of foreign companies and investors.

Ortega has blamed big anti-government protests that broke out in April 2018 on foreign interference. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights says more than 300 people died after the government violently repressed those demonstrations.

Nicaragua’s next presidential elections are scheduled for November 2021.

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