Roberto Cajina of the Latin American Network on Security and Defense, a group that seeks to preserve Latin American democracies from military encroachment, agrees with the Sandinistas that the three bills represent overdue legislation to define Nicaragua’s defense and border policies. But he warns that they need to be a product of broad consultation and consensus and not rushed through parliament in the 11th hour.
Some fear the president, who’s seeking reelection next year despite a constitutional ban prohibiting his candidacy, could use the laws to remain in power by force. “These laws would institutionalize Ortega’s paranoia and authoritarian style of government,” says constitutional law expert Gabriel Alvarez.
Ortega’s proposed laws would give the president unchecked authority to declare martial law and launch “national mobilizations” in the name of defending Nicaragua’s “established democratic order” against domestic and foreign threats. The legislation also calls for the creation of a new spy network under the umbrella of a “National Security System” comprised of “institutions specialized in intelligence and information” that will report directly to the president.
The Border Law, meanwhile, would give the Army administrative control of a 15-kilometer-wide border zone in which all property would be classified as “national terrain.” The law would also create a new “Border Security Zone” within five kilometers of the frontiers, where all land would become “inalienable” state property.
Foreign investors fret that the border law could be confiscatory, and Nicaragua’s native and ethnically-African population on the north Atlantic coast says the proposed legislation invokes ghosts of the 1980s.