ANPDH’s board members are accusing their director of stealing huge sums from US soft power organizations and inflating death tolls during last year’s coup attempt in Nicaragua. The OAS, which relied heavily on ANPDH’s flawed data, has kept silent so far.
By Nan McCurdy
A year after a US-backed coup attempt rocked Nicaragua, a major scandal is unfolding over the alleged theft of half a million dollars in US taxpayer money by an organization at the center of the destabilization effort.
Three board members of the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (ANPDH) have denounced their former director, Álvaro Leiva, accusing him of stealing almost half a million dollars in funding provided by the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy and other US soft power outfits.
The board members have also accused Leiva of “altering the number of deaths and injuries in the ANPDH reports in order to ask for more resources from North American donors, which totally invalidates the credibility of those reports,” according to Nicaraguan journalist Adolfo Pastran.
During the regime change attempt, which lasted from April 18 through July of last year, ANPDH claimed there were more than 400 dead, inflating the death toll by at least 150 and falsely blaming the government for each death. ANDPH also exaggerated the numbers of detained, wounded and disappeared – of which there was only one: Bismarck Martinez, a Sandinista member who was kidnapped on June 29, 2018 and found murdered in May of this year. Videos of the horrendous torture of Martinez were found on the cell phones of his torturers following their arrest.
As The Grayzone reported, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS) relied heavily on the flawed data of ANDPH in its own lopsided report on the 2018 crisis in Nicaragua.
The ANDPH was founded in Miami in 1986 under President Ronald Reagan to clean up the dirty war his CIA was waging against Nicaragua. Awarded an initial 3 million dollars from Congress in 1987, the group was charged with improving the human rights image of the US-backed Contras while zeroing in on alleged abuses by the Sandinista front. The ANPDH has received US funding ever since with a strong upswing in 2018, when the operation to topple President Daniel Ortega kicked into gear.
This July 23, ANPDH’s board of directors placed a complaint against Leiva for stealing nearly a half million US dollars, falsifying signatures and altering financial reports.
Gustavo Bermúdez, a member of ANDPH’s board, said that among the $443,876 received by Leiva was $45,000 in 2017 and $60,000 in April 2018 from the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy. He reaped an additional $28,876 in 2017 from the US government’s National Democratic Institute and $310,000 from the Open Society Foundations of anti-communist billionaire George Soros between 2017 and 2019.
Bermúdez is a journalist and widely recognized opponent of Ortega and the Sandinista front, making his accusations more difficult to dismiss.
Leiva, for his part, says he is the “victim of a conspiracy” overseen by the “dictatorship” of Ortega that aims to punish him for his human rights work. He has attacked his former colleague, Bermúdez, as part of a “fifth column of sophisticated people who dress in sheep’s clothes and are wolves in practice.”
In an interview with Adolfo Pastran, the President of the criminal branch of the Supreme Court, Francisco Rosales, said that Leiva’s alleged actions violate the criminal code, the Constitution and the law against terrorism and money laundering and are crimes prosecutable ex officio. “What has been said is very serious, they themselves have discredited those reports and confirms that they put live people on their lists of dead,” Rosales stated.
Pastran said that Leiva could be accused of laundering money through two bank accounts in two Nicaraguan banks: “Given the seriousness of the complaints against Leiva, none of the national newspapers, radio and TV stations that lauded the ANPDH reports on numbers of dead and shared them internationally, have said or printed a word.”
“The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS) has not commented despite the fact that their reports were fed with information, now proven fraudulent, from the ANPDH, as well as the reports of Americas Watch, Amnesty International and the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, which would indicate that all those reports are flawed. Even some Catholic bishops who gave statements using ANPDH data are profoundly silent,” Pastran noted.
“Leiva left Nicaragua in 2018 along with treasurers José Luis Rodríguez Reyes and Zaira Gabriela Hernández Espinoza with whom he formed a new non-governmental organization (NGO) in Costa Rica and with whom he intends to continue raising resources,” Bermúdez concluded.
Nan McCurdy publishes Nica Notes, a regular newsletter on Nicaraguan political affairs