Presidential Council against organized crime made up of those sanctioned and accused of corruption

Seven of the ten members of the Council created by the dictatorship to “combat organized crime” face economic sanctions, visa restrictions, and accusations of corruption, human rights violations, and complicity in crimes against humanity committed by the Ortega-Murillo regime since 2018

The National Assembly, controlled by operators of the dictatorship and its political allies, is in the process of approving the council against organized crime. Divergentes | Taken from the website of the National Assembly.

The National Assembly, controlled by the Ortega-Murillo regime, is about to approve the creation of the Presidential Council to “fight” organized crime and related offenses. This Council, which will report directly to the Presidency of the country, is made up of ten heads of various state institutions, seven of whom have international sanctions for corruption and human rights violations.

The initiative was presented on May 23 and was consulted again on Wednesday, May 29. The Law for the Creation of the Presidential Council for Coordination, Cooperation, and Information Exchange for the Prevention, Confrontation, and Prosecution of Organized Crime, Drug Trafficking, Money Laundering, Terrorism Financing, Financing of the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Other Related Crimes was proposed by the Justice and Legal Affairs Commission of the National Assembly.

This law aims to create the Presidential Council, whose functions would be to identify and evaluate national risks related to these crimes, as well as to coordinate the development of public policies and strategies.

“In this way, the fight against these crimes is strengthened, and it contributes to further improving Citizen Security, protecting what the Nicaraguan people have achieved,” justifies the initiative.

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The Presidential Council would be formed by the heads of the Financial Analysis Unit (UAF), Judiciary, Attorney General’s Office (PGR), Central Bank of Nicaragua (BCN), Public Ministry (MP), Ministry of the Interior (Mint), National Police (PN), Superintendency of Banks and Other Financial Institutions (SIBOIF), General Revenue Directorate (DGI), and General Directorate of Customs Services (DGA).

However, seven of the ten directors, presidents, and ministers of these institutions have economic sanctions, visa restrictions, and accusations of corruption, human rights violations, and complicity in crimes against humanity committed by the Ortega-Murillo regime since 2018. These are the officials who will “combat” organized crime in Nicaragua.

Among the corrupt and undemocratic actors of Central America

Denis Membreño Rivas has been director of the UAF since 2012. He was added to the Engel List in 2023.| El 19 Digital

The first on the list is retired military officer Denis Membreño Rivas, director of the Financial Analysis Unit (UAF), who has held the position since 2012. Because he was a Major General in the Nicaraguan Military before joining the UAF, his appointment as director of this institution sparked criticism from the beginning. 

On July 19, 2023, he was added to the Engel List of corrupt and undemocratic actors in Central America, created by the U.S. Department of State in 2021.

According to the Department of State, Membreño is accused of “corruption related to government contracts; bribery and extortion; facilitating or transferring the proceeds of corruption, including through money laundering; and acts of violence, harassment, or intimidation directed at government and non-government corruption investigators.”

He was also accused of “undermining democratic processes or institutions by participating in a coordinated campaign to suppress dissent, using his position to facilitate the seizure of assets from 94 political dissidents in exile and 222 former political prisoners without any legal basis.”

The Judiciary remains leaderless

Marvin Aguilar is the last “acting president” of the CSJ. Although it is known that he was removed from the post in February of this year, the regime has not announced who is the current president of the institution | El 19 Digital

The second member of the Council is the head of the Judiciary, the president of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ). Currently, the CSJ is undergoing a “great purge,” in which the last “acting president,” Marvin Ramiro Aguilar García, was removed. Although his removal became known in February of this year, the dictatorship has not provided any public information on who is now leading the institution.

Marvin Aguilar replaced Alba Luz Ramos after she was removed from office in October last year. Before serving as “acting president,” he was vice president of the CSJ and National Political Secretary of the FSLN in the national justice system.

He was sanctioned by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and by the Canadian government between 2020 and 2021 due to the persecution and prosecution he carried out against regime opponents.

Political persecutor, Wendy Morales

Wendy Morales, Attorney General of the Republic, is one of the main figures implicated in the seizure of universities by the government | El 19 Digital

Wendy Carolina Morales Urbina, president of the Attorney General’s Office (PGR), has held the position since 2019 and will be the third member of the Council.

The Ortega-affiliated official is accused of being responsible for the persecution of regime opponents and carrying out the confiscation of their assets. She has also implemented the seizure of properties from civil organizations stripped of their legal status, independent media, and diplomatic missions.

Along with Membreño, she was added to the Engel List in 2023 for being “a key figure in the unjust persecution of political prisoners and civil society by the Nicaraguan regime.”

The OFAC indicated that “Morales Urbina personally appeared in several private buildings in her official capacity, delivered deeds to new owners, and declared that from then on, the properties were for public use.”

BCN president on the Council’s List

Presidential Council against organized crime made up of those sanctioned and accused of corruption
Central Bank President Ovidio Reyes, sanctioned by the U.S. OFAC in 2021. Divergentes | Taken from El 19 Digital

Leonardo Ovidio Reyes Ramírez is the fourth member of the Presidential Council against organized crime. Reyes has been president of the Central Bank of Nicaragua (BCN) since 2014 and is accused by the OFAC of complicity with the Ortega-Murillo regime.

According to the entity, Reyes is responsible for the so-called Consumer Protection and User Protection Law, “which could require Nicaraguan financial institutions to do business with designated persons in Nicaragua at the risk of facilitating sanctionable transactions.”

According to OFAC, this law contributes to “the destabilization of the Nicaraguan economy.” He was also sanctioned by the Canadian government in 2021.

The Attorney General among the most sanctioned officials

Presidential Council against organized crime made up of those sanctioned and accused of corruption
Ana Julia Guido has accumulated at least seven international sanctions from European Union countries and the United States for her participation in the prosecution of opponents. Divergentes| Taken from El 19 Digital

Ana Julia Guido Ochoa, the head of the Public Ministry (MP), has been the Attorney General since 2014 and is the fifth member of the Council. Guido is one of the key figures behind the mass prosecutions carried out by the MP since 2018, alongside other justice institutions, against opposition figures.

The French government accused her in 2021 of having created “a specialized unit that fabricates charges against protesters” and carrying out legal processes against them.

“She is also responsible for prohibiting the main opposition candidate in the general elections from holding public office. Therefore, she is responsible for serious human rights violations, repression against civil society and the democratic opposition, and attacks on democracy and the rule of law in Nicaragua,” states the French Ministry of Economy, Finance, and Industry.

The minister of confiscations 

Presidential Council against organized crime made up of those sanctioned and accused of corruption
María Amelia Coronel es la ministra del interior a cargo de ejecutar la cacería contra los organismo de la sociedad civil. Divergentes | Tomado de El 19 Digital.

María Amelia Coronel Kinloch, known as the “minister of confiscations,” is the head of the Ministry of the Interior and the person responsible for more than 3,000 cancellations of legal status for social organizations and higher education institutions.

The sixth member of the Council is also responsible for creating repressive regulations against the population and releasing thousands of regular prisoners under the pretext of keeping families together.

Although she has been minister since 2017, she is part of the nepotistic family network kept by the Ortega-Murillo regime long before, according to a DIVERGENTES investigation.

Coronel Kinloch was the official who filed the accusation against the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCh) in 2021 for alleged money laundering and asset laundering crimes. Despite her active participation in violating citizens’ rights, she has not been internationally sanctioned.

The alleged killer of protesters will pursue organized crime

Francisco Díaz acumula 10 sanciones internacionales por su participación en el asesinato de manifestantes en 2018 y la detención de personas opositoras. Divergentes |Tomado de El 19 Digital

The founder of the National Police (PN) and Director General of this institution, Francisco Díaz Madriz, is the seventh member of the Presidential Council.

After a lifetime dedicated to the Police since 1979, he was appointed director on August 24, 2018, four months after Aminta Granera was removed from the position by Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo’s order and amid the brutal repression being carried out by the institution against protesters in anti-government marches.

Díaz has been accused of being co-responsible for the killing of more than 350 people in the 2018 protests, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, of excessive use of force, of detaining opposition figures, and of torturing them.

He has a long list of sanctions and restrictions imposed by various countries in the European Union, the United States, and Canada. In just these six years as director, he has accumulated nine of these penalties against him.

The Superintendent of Banks is not exempt

Luis Montenegro (right) was appointed Superintendent in 2019 and has been accused of persecution of financial actors who oppose the regime. Divergentes | Taken from El 19 Digital

Luis Ángel Montenegro Espinoza, Superintendent of Banks and Other Financial Institutions, has held the position since May 2019 and is the eighth member of the Council.

After his appointment, he was accused of having taken this position without following the process established by the Organic Law of the Legislative Power of the Republic of Nicaragua, Law 606. Before this, he worked as president of the Comptroller’s Office of the Republic since 2014, where he was accused of not fulfilling his duties as established by law.

According to the Canadian government, which sanctioned him, “he is responsible for the persecution of financial actors who resisted Ortega’s regime policies, as well as for enforcing the regime’s control over the financial sector. He was appointed to this position directly by Daniel Ortega as a reward for his loyalty.”

“In his previous role as Comptroller General of the Republic, he ensured that Ortega’s corrupt financial activities were not audited and similarly contributed to Ortega’s regime control. Therefore, he is responsible for undermining the rule of law in Nicaragua, as well as for repressing civil society and the democratic opposition,” the statement continued. His list of sanctions also includes restrictions from European Union countries and the United States.

DGI and DGA among regime supporters, despite their low profile

Eddy Medrano is one of the longest-serving officials of the regime. Divergentes| Taken from El 19 Digital

Eddy Medrano Soto, head of the General Directorate of Customs Services (DGA), has worked to keep a low profile since his appointment in 2007.

The ninth member of the Council was responsible for withholding paper, ink, and other raw materials from the newspapers La Prensa and Hoy between 2019 and 2022. El Nuevo Diario and Metro also suffered withholdings by the DGA.

Despite multiple complaints from La Prensa and rulings in favor of this newspaper by the Customs and Tax Administrative Court to release the withheld paper, Medrano did not allow the delivery and extended the withholding for over 70 weeks, according to complaints from the media outlet.

Retired National Police captain Martín Gustavo Rivas Ruiz is the current Director General of the General Directorate of Revenue (DGI). Like Medrano, he has kept a low profile since assuming the position in 2011.

However, a recent investigation by the Pro Transparency and Anti-Corruption Observatory (OPTA) revealed that Nicaraguan businesspeople reported the existence of extortions by the Ortega-Murillo regime carried out by the DGI and the DGA.

The information we publish in DIVERGENTES comes from contrasted sources. Due to the situation in the region, many times, we are forced to protect them under pseudonymity or anonymity. Unfortunately, some governments in the region, including the Nicaraguan regime, do not provide information or censor independent media. For this reason, despite requesting it, we cannot rely on official, authorized versions. We resort to data analysis, anonymous internal sources, or limited information from the official media. These are the conditions under which we exercise a profession that, in many cases, costs us our safety and our lives. We will continue to report.