A memo sent on October 31, 2023 to the officials of the Supreme Court of Justice ( SCJ), confirmed for the first time the unofficial dismissal of the president of that branch of government, Magistrate Alba Luz Ramos, and the appointment de facto of the new “acting president”, Magistrate Marvin Ramiro Aguilar García, who according to judicial sources, would be in charge of the reconstruction of a new supreme court that unconditionally responds to dictators Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.
“With instructions from Dr. Marvin Ramiro Aguilar García, acting presiding magistrate of this Supreme Court… a paid vacation will be granted on Thursday the second and a vacation allowance on Friday the third of November”, detailed the statement, signed by the secretary of the SCJ, Rubén Montenegro Espinoza.
Despite being an unconditional supporter of the Sandinista regime and having assumed the position of national political secretary, after the resignation of former magistrate Rafael Solís in 2019, Aguilar García hardly appeared in the informative pages of the national media.
His “most prominent stain” was the designation imposed by the U.S. State Department on December 21, 2020. “The magistrate is not the smartest in his class, but he learned to be quiet and clever. Throughout his time in the party and the (Supreme) Court, he has used stepping stones to get closer to power. And thanks to that, he enjoys the dictators’ confidence today. They put him in charge of leading the restructuring of their new Supreme Court,” said the source, who was part of Aguilar García’s close circle and requested anonymity for security reasons.
The dictatorship’s impact on the Supreme Court of Justice
In the last few weeks, national media reported on an attack against Alba Luz Ramos. The eviction of Ramos, according to these publications, was carried out by a group of police headed by retired Commissioner General Horacio Rocha, now a presidential advisor with the rank of minister in national security matters.
The eviction of Yadira Centeno González, judge of the Civil Chamber of the SCJ, and the dismissal of the third judge of the Court, Virgilio Gurdián, who was also one of the four members of the National Council of Administration and Judicial Studies, a collegiate body which was the highest administrative authority of that branch of the State, and of which only Marvin Aguilar and judge Juana Méndez remain.
These moves have finally dismantled the Supreme Court of Justice. Only six magistrates remain in office, out of the 16 that head Nicaragua’s highest judicial body. It is expected that in the next few weeks, the regime will proceed to the election of the ten missing positions.
With the fall of Alba Luz Ramos, Yadira Centeno and Virgilio Gurdián, the magistrates left operating in the SCJ are: Marvin Aguilar, Juana Méndez, Armengol Cuadra López, Gerardo Arce Castaño, Armando Juárez López and Ellen Joy Lewin Downs (all from the Frente Sandinista party), and Manuel Martínez Sevilla (liberal).
The election of Aguilar García for the restructuring of the new SCJ was not random. According to this source, the sanction imposed by the State Department at the time gave clues to the work the magistrate was doing for the Ortega and Murillo regime.
“Aguilar García is in charge of having supporters of the regime selected for key positions and as national political secretary, he directly advises President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo,” reads part of the press release published that year by the U.S. State Department.
At this moment, the source explained, the “acting president” is in charge of an important job: to choose people loyal to the dictators to fill vacant posts within the entire Judicial Branch at a national level. Proven loyalty, he continued, is a must for the positions.
Marvin Aguilar’s profile: ” A gossip, adulator and unconditional”
Before taking a seat on the Supreme Court of Justice, Aguilar García was an unknown lawyer in Juigalpa, Chontales. Sources who spoke to DIVERGENTES for this article agreed that his work was so null that they do not even know which law school he graduated from. The only thing they know for sure is that he began his judicial trajectory in the courts of the fifth region of Nicaragua, between the cities of Boaco, El Rama and Nueva Guinea.
However, Aguilar García was no longer unknown when he met Lenín Cerna, then head of the General Directorate of State Security (DGSE), in the mid-1980s. His friendship with one of Daniel Ortega’s most trusted men made him his enforcer in the Judiciary at that time and in the years following the electoral defeat of Sandinismo in 1990.
“All the old law firms knew that Lenín Cerna, without being a lawyer, won more cases than defense attorneys. But in reality it was through judges and magistrates served by Marvin Aguilar,” explained a former Judicial Branch official who spoke to DIVERGENTES under anonymity.
Marvin Aguilar’s godfathers in the Judicial Branch
The work he did in the service of Cerna, added to the friendship he made with former judge Orlando Corrales, who was vice president of the Supreme Court of Justice up until the early nineties, and lawyer Mariano Barahona, earned Aguilar García his entry, first to the Court of Appeals of Chontales, and later to the highest instance of the Judiciary.
During the sixties, Orlando Corrales was prosecutor of Region I of Nicaragua, and magistrate of the Criminal and Civil Chamber of the Court of Appeals of Estelí. Between 1986 and 1993, he was a magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice.
Meanwhile, Mariano Barahona, was founder of the Association of Democratic Jurists of Nicaragua during the eighties and former Supreme Court magistrate during the first stage of the Sandinista government last century.
“Aguilar was very limited in his knowledge, but Orlando Corrales and Mariano Barahona, covered for him all the time”, explained a source linked to this power of the State.
Aguilar García was finally rewarded by Sandinismo, under the sponsorship of Cerna, in 1996 with a position as magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice politically responding to the Sandinista Front. That same year Yadira Centeno was also elected, who was expelled from her office also by Horacio Rocha in early November, according to national media.
“He was clever and managed to stand out to be noticed by the authorities who had power within the Court. And it helped him to be promoted, but on the way he forgot about the people who got him there”, explained the source linked to the Judiciary.
According to this source, Aguilar García developed characteristics that during his beginnings he never showed to those who helped him grow in his judicial trajectory.
“Everyone who knows him can assure you that he became heartless and dishonest. Capable of selling anyone to achieve his purposes. His own godfathers (Corrales and Barahona) said so and they resented him because when he got a foothold in power, he ignored them, did not attend to them and even rejected them”, said the source, who added that the “acting president” is always looking for ways to get information from the people he knows or works close to him.
Light and darkness
Within the SCJ, Aguilar was in a hurry to stand out and be positively valued by the highest authorities of the Sandinista Front and the other forces competing for power at the time.
In March 1997, the government of Arnoldo Alemán asked the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) for a technical collaboration program, with the objective of supporting the peace and democracy process that would consolidate the rule of law through institutional strengthening.
This request resulted in the signing of a cooperation agreement with the OAS, under the auspices of the Swedish Cooperation Agency, SIDA, which concluded with the Judicial Facilitators Service as a support mechanism for local judges, especially in the most isolated communities of Nicaragua.
“The service was established to help local judges to carry out some procedures that were difficult for them to perform, due to the fact that many courts had jurisdiction over several municipalities, had few personnel and the poor state of the roads made it difficult for people to travel to the courts; added to this, the high level of insecurity in the area led to a high rate of impunity,” the OAS says on its web page about the agreement.
The official who is credited with founding the National Judicial Facilitators Service of Nicaragua, and who was in charge of its coordination, was Aguilar García, who years later wrote a report on the achievements and progress made with the entry of the judicial facilitators model.
“It was an innovative proposal at the time and then it was well developed. It relieved the work of judges in the courts and this was well received by those of us who work in the Judicial Branch. Of course, with the passage of time it became a bit politicized, but that aside, the facilitators were a good project,” said a lawyer who referred to this particular issue anonymously.
Judicial Inspector’s Office used to punish “colleagues”
Although Aguilar García founded and promoted a project that has had good results in the field of justice, some of the sources who spoke to DIVERGENTES do not have good memories of his tenure in charge of the Judicial Inspectorate Office, from where the “acting presiding magistrate” punished many of his “colleagues”.
According to the SCJ website, this office is a support body of the National Council of Administration and Judicial Studies. It is in charge of investigating all complaints filed against magistrates of appellate courts, judges, clerks, public registrars and also judicial officials who are part of the Judicial Career Law (Law 501), it also processes those complaints filed against lawyers and public notaries, as long as these actions do not constitute crimes.
“In this sense, the Judicial Inspectorate, in coordination with the Office of Registry and Control of Notaries, watches over the faithful compliance by the notaries regarding the filing of the indexes within the legal term,” states the information published on the website of this branch of the State.
The case of the “fake magistrate”
But Aguilar, according to the sources consulted, did not apply justice from this office. On the contrary, he used it to manipulate officials who had many complaints against him.
“This was an executioner’s office and its method of functioning was to accept complaints against officials, even if they were unfounded, in order to have something to blackmail them with. Complaints were left behind and only until the official was disposable or no longer worked would they bring them back to life and resolve them to get rid of the employees,” said another source who worked in the Judicial Branch for more than five years.
Karla, a lawyer who knew of a case of Aguilar Garcia’s revenge against another colleague, recounted that for many months her colleague was blackmailed within the Court to perform some illegal services and was finally fired when she completed them.
“He is an adulator, a gossip, unscrupulous and greedy. And this character pleases the dictators, as long as they need him. Aguilar García is a regime supporter,” said the source linked to the Judiciary.
In 2014, the name of Magistrate Aguilar was linked to a notorious case of swindling, when the Police discovered that a prisoner, named Álvaro Ramón Leiva López, was impersonating the magistrate in order to obtain judicial favors.
The case was called by the newspapers as the “fake magistrate” scam. Leiva, from jail, offered his victims that judges under his control would declare the nullity of the processes of adjudication of their properties held by banks and financial institutions in different courts, in exchange for the gathering of ten producers who would pay him US$10,000 each.
De acuerdo a fuentes judiciales, el caso funcionaba, porque precisamente el “modus operandi” de Aguilar, quien por cierto, nunca se pronunció públicamente sobre esta estafa en la que se usaba su nombre.
The dispute between Juana Méndez and Marvin Aguilar
Although sources who spoke to DIVERGENTES confirmed that Aguilar García is in charge of the reconstruction of a SCJ at the service of the Sandinista dictators, none dared to assure that the “acting president” will officially and legally establish himself as the new head of the Court.
“In that purge is another important figure of the Sandinista Front and Daniel Ortega. I am referring to magistrate Juana Méndez, who also has a lot of power in the Court and has other functions,” explained the former Justice Court official.
Aguilar García has the advantage of having been in the position of magistrate longer than Méndez. Although, according to sources, seniority would not be the most determining point, when the dictators officially appoint one of them to the position.
“Aguilar can be more unconditional to the dictators if he chooses to be. And the Ortega-Murillo family loves that, because it is not a matter of loyalty, it goes beyond that”, said the same source.
While the time for the official election arrives, Aguilar García, according to the sources consulted, continues with the work of reconstruction of the Court and they predict firings in all the offices of the Judicial Power at a national level, specifically affecting those who were elected by Alba Luz Ramos or appointed by Yadira Centeno.
His role as a restructurer is also due to former State Security agent and powerful security advisor to Daniel Ortega, Néstor Moncada Lau, who used him as an instrument to strengthen his power in the Judiciary.
“Aguilar has always sought more and more, and if they let him, he will go to hell for them. I am not clear if he will be the final piece, but he is in the dictators’ disposition. He is nosy, unscrupulous, very little legally capable, but his unconditionality has him in a better position”, the source concluded.