Nicaraguan Supreme Court Justice Resigns in Protest

MEXICO CITY — A Nicaraguan Supreme Court justice has resigned with a scathing open letter to President Daniel Ortega, who faced down protests against his government last year by unleashing security forces against them.

“I fought against a dictatorship and I never believed that history would repeat itself on account of those who also fought against that same dictatorship,” said the letter, attributed to Judge Rafael Solís Cerda, who stepped down Thursday.

Mr. Solís is a longtime member of the president’s Sandinista Front party, but his letter said Mr. Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, were dragging Nicaragua toward a civil war.

The letter, circulating widely on social media, was accompanied by a photograph of Mr. Solís’s government-issued ID. The letter’s authenticity could not be independently confirmed, and a message to him was not immediately answered.

The government did not immediately comment.

Mr. Solís noted the hundreds who had died in the violent repression of protests in Nicaragua, which began last April over social security cuts. At least 325 have been killed in the clashes, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the government cuts have been scrapped.

Since the protests were banned and the government regained control of the streets, leaders and even participants of the public opposition have been arrested and jailed.

Mr. Ortega and Ms. Murillo have maintained that the government was responding as necessary to a coup attempt. They said foreign interests had joined with Nicaragua’s opposition to try to bring down the government.

But Mr. Solís’s letter said that there had been no coup attempt and that the government had responded to dissent with “an irrational use of force."

Last month, the government shut down several human rights groups and independent media outlets. It also expelled teams from two branches of the Organization of American States that were investigating allegations of human rights violations.

Mr. Solís’s letter said that he considered resigning last year, but that he had hoped Mr. Ortega and Ms. Murillo would enter a genuine dialogue with their opponents. He said the president disregarded suggestions that he had offered on negotiating an end to the political crisis.

The judge’s resignation represents the highest level defection from Mr. Ortega’s government since the crisis began. Still, Mr. Solís will probably still face harsh criticism from the opposition, since he and the other justices have been seen as staunch backers of the Ortega government and allowed him to run for re-election.

In the letter, Mr. Solís attributed the judiciary’s compliance with Mr. Ortega to the “state of terror” in Nicaragua and the knowledge that any resistance would simply result in judges’ being ousted.

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