Nicaragua shuts down Mother Teresa charity, 100 other groups

Credit: REUTERS/MAYNOR VALENZUELA

June 30 (Reuters) - Nicaragua has shut down 101 civic organizations and charities, including the local branch of the Missionaries of Charity established by Mother Teresa, the country's national assembly said in a statement late on Wednesday.

The move, the latest in a spate of closures under the government of President Daniel Ortega that the opposition has said is an attack on civil society, claimed the groups "failed to comply with obligations established by national legislation".

The Missionaries of Charity, which works with impoverished communities, had been operating in Nicaragua for over 34 years.

In April, Nicaragua's parliament, controlled by Ortega allies, shut down 25 non-governmental organizations many of which had openly criticized the government. Lawmakers argued the NGOs had violated Nicaraguan laws.

Ortega, one of the leaders of the Sandinista rebellion that toppled former dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979, was sworn into office for his fourth consecutive term as president in January, two months after winning an election dismissed by the United States and other Western nations as fraudulent.

In March, the Vatican protested to Nicaragua over the effective expulsion of its ambassador to capital Managua, saying the unilateral action was unjustified and incomprehensible.

Archbishop Waldemar Sommertag, who was ambassador since 2018, had to leave the country abruptly after the government withdrew its diplomatic approval of the envoy, known in diplomatic language as an agrément.

"The Ortega regime in Nicaragua has systematically canceled legal registration of human rights organizations and other NGO's in an effort to demolish the few trenches of democracy that still survive in the country," Juan Pappier, senior researcher on Latin America at Human Rights Watch, told Reuters.

(Reporting by Steven Grattan in Sao Paulo; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

((Steven.Grattan@thomsonreuters.com;))

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