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Nicaragua Table of Contents


Secret Police and Intelligence

The secret police and intelligence operations of the Ministry of Interior under the Sandinistas were the main instruments used to maintain FSLN control and suppress dissent. The secret police agency, the General Directorate of State Security (Dirección General de Seguridad del Estado--DGSE), carried out surveillance and operations against perceived opponents. The DGSE could arrest suspected counterrevolutionaries and hold them indefinitely without charge. It operated its own detention and interrogation centers and clandestine prisons. The DGSE was reported to have been assisted by at least 100 Cuban advisers.

After Chamorro's election in 1990, the DGSE was transferred to the army along with 1,200 of its 1,700 members, and renamed the Directorate of Defense Information (Dirección de Información para la Defensa--DID). The DGSE's chief, Colonel Lenín Cerna Juárez, a militant Sandinista, became head of the DID. Human rights activists called on President Chamorro to remove Cerna from his position and to investigate human rights violations attributed to him while he headed the DGSE. In 1993 Chamorro removed the DID from EPS control by transferring it to the Presidency as the Directorate of Intelligence Affairs. Cerna was then replaced by a civilian. Nevertheless, the EPS continues to maintain a security office under a Sandinista EPS officer, and Cerna was transferred to the post of inspector general of the EPS.

Little is known about the way DID functions as part of the military, but it is believed to conduct both military intelligence and internal intelligence gathering. Local human rights groups claim that the DID has followed the DGSE practice of operating wiretaps, intercepting mail, and conducting illegal searches of homes and businesses. Unlike the DGSE, however, DID does not have the power of arrest and therefore is not in a position to impose its authority on the civilian population, as was the case with its predecessor agency.

Data as of December 1993