Less than a week after Venezuelan Supreme Court Justice Christian Zerpa fled Caracas, a similar defection was underway in Nicaragua.
Speaking with the New York Times, Nicaraguan Supreme Court Justice Rafael Solis (pictured) detailed his noteworthy resignation. Although he is the first high-profile government official to defect from the Ortega administration in Nicaragua, he certainly will not be the last as dissidents face increasing repression and violence now 9-months after the outbreak of student anti-government protests.
Mr. Solis was unsparing in his criticism of Mr. Ortega, who he had been allied with since the 1970s.
“The separation of powers in Nicaragua is over,” he said. “The concentration of power is in them, those two people.”
Mr. Solis said he now regretted one of his own most consequential rulings, a 2009 Supreme Court decision that ended term limits and allowed Mr. Ortega to remain in power.
But while critics of the government saw Mr. Solis’s defection as an important show of opposition that could lead to others, he said he had few illusions that his resignation alone would have a big impact on the judiciary or the government where Mr. Ortega and Ms. Murillo now make all the decisions that matter.
“I wasn’t being very useful: We practically didn’t have any job functions,” Mr. Solis said in a telephone interview from an undisclosed location outside Nicaragua. “It was a very limited judiciary.”
Nicaragua, with a population of 6.2 million people, is one of the poorest nations in the hemisphere. It has been rocked by political turmoil since April, when students and older people who picketed against proposed reductions in social security benefits were attacked by pro-government mobs.
The protests quickly spiraled out of control, and several dozen people were killed. The unrest spread to cities around the nation. At least 325 people have been killed and hundreds more imprisoned as public dissent was outlawed.
Mr. Solis had been a loyal member of the president’s Sandinista Front party since he helped Mr. Ortega fight a guerrilla war against the Somoza dictatorship in the 1970s. He was the only witness at Mr. Ortega’s wedding.
A former member of the legislature and leader in the armed forces, he had been on the Supreme Court for 19 years. During that time, he was an unstinting Ortega loyalist as exemplified by the term-limits ruling that, in effect, let Mr. Ortega run for re-election indefinitely. In the past, presidents were limited to two, nonconsecutive terms.