Nicaraguan President, Government Officals Took Bribes From Drug Traffickers

Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega (R) attend a news conference in Managua November 6, 2010. Insulza is in Nicaragua to mediate a border dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. REUTERS/Stringer

Nicaragua Government Took Bribes From Drug Traffickers, Cable Says (Wall Street Journal):

U.S. diplomats accused Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s government of taking bribes from drug traffickers in exchange for freeing suspects, in cables released by Wikileaks.

The bribes formed a kind of “judicial ‘campaign finance’ machine” in return for not-guilty verdicts, according to a May 5, 2006, cable from the U.S. Embassy in Manangua, Nicaragua. It says the ruling Sandinista party regularly accepted cash from drug traffickers, “usually in return for ordering Sandinista judges to allow traffickers caught by the police and military to go free.” The scheme, the cable said, was run by the director of the state security service and overseen by Supreme Court judges, including Rafael Solis and Roger Camillo Arguello.

The Nicaraguan Consulate in Washington declined to comment, deferring to the Foreign Ministry, which didn’t respond to a request for comment. Government representatives in Managua couldn’t be reached. The State Department didn’t respond to a request for comment on the cable.

Arguello is accused in the cable of coordinating a “complicated scheme to make 609,000 dollars in drug money seized from two Colombians ‘disappear’ from a Supreme Court account,” and he allegedly did it by funneling it into Sandinista party accounts.

Solis, in an interview with Nicaraguan television cited in a Washington Post story, said the accusations in the Wikileaks documents are “baseless and have no credibility.”

In another example, a Sandinista candidate for regional elective office in March 2006 allegedly tried to bribe a judge with $108,500 to free convicted drug trafficker Marvin Funez. “According to prosecutors, this was not the first time that Rigoberto Gonzalez Garbach had tried to bribe judges to free drug traffickers,” the cable said.

Ortega also had a notable history with terrorists, according to a second cable. During the 1980s, he “he invited international terrorists from Italy, Lebanon, Libya, the Palestinian territories, and Spain” to come to Nicaragua and use it as a base for operations, the cable said.

Leaders of the Argentine “Los Montoneros” group resided in Nicaragua and engaged in military activities with the Sandinistas at the end of the 1970s and into the 1980s, the cable said.

A third cable, this one from May 2008, alleges that Ortega attempted to endear his country to Iran, which he viewed as a “revolutionary soul mate” because they both toppled regimes in 1979. Ortega sought investment, but Iran rebuffed him, it said.

He also allegedly received “suitcases full of cash from Venezuelan officials” when making official trips to Caracas, Venezuela, according to the cable, which cites firsthand witnesses. However, a fourth cable from Feb. 25, 2010, said that though Ortega allegedly received nearly $1 billion from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Ortega’s constant need for cash is “likely now wearisome for Chavez who faces growing domestic economic difficulties.”

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