Mission Journal: Nicaragua slides backward

Nicaragua’s press freedom conditions have seriously deteriorated in the last year, local journalists and free press advocates told Americas Senior Program Coordinator Carlos Lauría and me during a weeklong visit to Managua. We concluded our mission on Friday and will issue a report next month on the nation’s press conditions.

Our hopes for a meeting with a top government official were dashed when President Daniel Ortega, his wife (and top advisor) Rosario Murillo, and a large presidential entourage suddenly embarked for Cuba in mid-week. Though the media initially reported that Ortega would be gone for 18 days, the Nicaraguan president returned to his country on Saturday, the Managua-based daily El Nuevo Diario said.

Ortega, as usual, did not inform the press of his trip. His itinerary, his agenda, and his health are kept secret. There are rumors, though nothing confirmed, that his visit to Cuba included medical treatment along with a meeting with counterpart Raul Castro, below.

While Ortega did not agree to meet with CPJ, we were fortunate to speak with a number of other government representatives. Among them were top human rights official Omar Cabezas (who dismissed our concerns about press freedom conditions) and Supreme Court Vice President Rafael Solís, a close advisor to Ortega. We also spoke with Dennis Schwartz, general director of the pro-government radio station Nueva Radio Ya. All of their perspectives will be included in our report.