MEXICO CITY (AP) – The Nicaraguan government on Wednesday closed down an additional 101 civic and charitable groups, including the local chapter of the Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa.
The closures were approved by the country’s Congress and bring the number of non-governmental organizations closed in Nicaragua in the past four years to 758.
The government claims the groups failed to meet a 2020 requirement to register as “foreign agents.”
President Daniel Ortega began canceling groups he believes had ties to the opposition, but now the government appears to be planning to wipe the landscape clean of any organization it doesn’t control.
The government has announced that another 100 groups will be closed soon.
The Missionaries of Charity had been in Nicaragua for 34 years and had a children’s center, a girls’ home and a retirement home. The missionaries offered children music and theater lessons, as well as vocational training for child victims of violence.
The closures targeted a wide variety of groups, including the Society of Pediatrics, the Nicaraguan Development Institute, the Confederation of Nicaraguan Professional Associations and the Nicaragua Internet Association.
Also closed were the Cocibolca Equestrian Center, the western city of Leon’s Rotary Club and the Operation Smile Association that funded free surgeries for children with cleft lip and cleft palate until it was canceled in March. A prominent businessman associated with that group had taken part in anti-government protests in 2018.
Many organizations were committed to helping the most marginalized in a country suffering from extreme economic uncertainty.
Ortega’s government arrested dozens of opposition political leaders, including most potential presidential candidates, in the months before his reelection for a fourth consecutive term last year.
His government has accused non-governmental groups of working on behalf of foreign interests to destabilize his government. Tens of thousands of Nicaraguans have been driven into exile.
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