(Washington, D.C.) – President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua has promoted two officials who have played a leading role in the brutal repression of protests in the country, Human Rights Watch said today. They are General Francisco Diaz, now director of the National Police, and General Ramón Avellán, now its deputy director.
“President Daniel Ortega’s decision to promote these two men is a testament to his government’s brutality,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. "These promotions are an indication that the international community should redouble its efforts to halt Ortega’s crackdown on dissent, including by calling for a special session at the United Nations Human Rights Council.”
Since protests started in April, the Nicaraguan police have engaged in serious abuses, including excessive use of force, arbitrary detention, and torture. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded that the number of abuses strongly suggests “coordinated action” to repress dissent in a "systematic" fashion.
As the police deputy director, Díaz was widely believed to exercise significant leadership over the force. On July 5, 2018, the US Treasury Department had sanctioned Díaz under the Global Magnitsky Act, alleging that under his command “the National Police has engaged in serious human rights abuse against the people of Nicaragua.” Díaz is also the father-in-law of Ortega's son.
In April, Ortega had dispatched General Avellán to Masaya, where he became the highest-ranking member of the National Police in the province. Under his leadership, police and armed pro-government gangs brutally suppressed protesters, killing dozens. In a July 17 interview, General Avellán told local journalists that "the orders of our president and our vice-president are to clean up the roadblocks... we will fulfill these orders, whatever the cost."
Under Nicaraguan law, Ortega is the “supreme chief” of the National Police with sweeping powers to command the National Police as well as to appoint and dismiss its leadership.
On August 23, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to member states of the Human Rights Council urging them to convene a special session on Nicaragua.
“The governments that have condemned the bloodbath should urge the president of the UN Human Rights Council to urgently convene a special session to address the serious abuses in Nicaragua,” Vivanco said.