Freddy Navas Only Wanted to Plant Watermelons in Freedom

Freddy Navas

By La Prensa

HAVANA TIMES – In the 1980s, Freddy Navas was just a young Nicaraguan man from Ometepe with a desire to study. He learned to cultivate the land because that was the trade of his parents, and of almost everyone on the island. But he also had a passion for reading.

His studies were cut short when he had to flee Nicaragua to avoid getting killed in the mountains while fulfilling the compulsory military service that the Sandinistas imposed on all Nicaraguan males. First he went into hiding in Nicaragua, and then he fled to Costa Rica.

Navas struggled to be able to study, but he did not finish high school. He decided to study automotive mechanics, a trade he has practiced.

Today, at age 56, Navas has not been able to escape Sandinismo. For the second time, he is a political prisoner of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo’s regime. His crime, as he often tells his family, is to want a free Nicaragua and having opposed law 840 since 2013. This is the law with which Ortega and his Chinese partner Wang Jing can take the land from the peasants for the presently failed project to build an interoceanic canal.

He is one of the founders of the peasant movement, the one that Ortega and Murillo have tried to destroy, forcing their leaders into exile or putting them in jail.

Leaders of the Campesino Movement. On the right, Navas. / LA PRENSA/ ARCHIVES/ ÓSCAR NAVARRETE

Farmer and mechanic

Watermelon and plantains are the principal products that Navas cultivates on his farm on Ometepe. Watermelon even more so than plantains because it is in high demand for export. But he also grows tomatoes, lemons, cassava and other produce.

He was doing well. He worked hard. Like every farmer, he got up at dawn to oversee his land with his three children.

On Ometepe, Navas farmed. And in Managua, where he arrived more than 30 years ago, Navas worked as a mechanic, a trade he studied when he learned that he could not enter the university after having moved to Managua when he returned from exile in Costa Rica.

He invested his earnings in the farm.

Home loving

In 1989, Navas married Yadira Torres and they formed a traditional home where they do things together as a family: eat at the same time, go to the movies together, go to the farm together. A united family and a man dedicated to their home, says Navas’ son, Freddy Jr.

“My dad is a witty man and a good person. But he is also very brave and determined. He defends what he believes and doesn’t submit. This is why they condemn him,” says his son.

Navas’ three sons are in exile. One of the ways in which Navas is being tortured in the new Chipote is that they tell him that they already know where his children are as “Daniel Ortega has a very long arm.”

Nacatamales, pinolillo, gallo pinto, and cream were never lacking on the Navas-Torres family’s table. “My dad comes from a poor family, but he has worked and progressed little by little. He is not rich; he has no money. He is a typical small farmer. We were not brought up with luxuries, but we have never lacked food,” says Navas Jr.

In the mornings he puts on his boots and hat and goes out to the field like any other farmer, explains the young man speaking about his father.


Freddy Navas comes from an opposition family. His father, deceased, and his mother, Guadalupe López, now 90 years old, were against the Somoza dictatorship. And when the Sandinistas came to power, Freddy’s family did not agree with their way of thinking either.

“My father says that these people (Sandinistas) are bad; they do a lot of damage. They like to cause pain,” says Navas’ 30-year-old son.

Navas, who preferred the liberals (conservative in US terms), never got involved in politics until 2013, when the canal law emerged, which allows the lands that are within the route of the canal to be declared public utility. To date, the first stone hasn’t been laid, nor has a backhoe even been seen.

A home-loving man, as described by his son. / Courtesy of LA PRENSA

The Campesino Movement

Almost immediately after the announcement of the canal the campesinos began to fear for their lands. On Ometepe the law presented a threat to several families, among them Navas and some of his relatives.

Namas’ son explains that on Ometepe most people are engaged in agriculture. It’s what they’ve done for many years, from great-great-grandparents and beyond. Watermelon is the most sought-after product, followed by plantains. The land is good and if they had to move to someplace else, they do not know what the quality of the land would be like.

Navas’ children are already adults, ages 30, 28 and 27. For this reason, Navas began to meet with other farmers to address the problem of their lands being threatened by the canal law.

He became totally involved, devoting himself entirely to this work, and became one of the founding members of the campesino movement.

He participated in the marches. He supported every action of the farmers to repeal the canal law. His son says he wasn’t very visible. He occasionally gave interviews to the media but not frequently like Francisca Ramírez or Medardo Mairena.

He only started to become visible after April 2018, when young people in Nicaragua supported the protests of senior citizens in reaction to Ortega’s harmful reforms to the social security law. The campesinos decided to support these protests.

Political prisoner

The campesino movement was heavily involved in the protests. So much so that when a dialogue was set up in May 2018 sponsored by the Catholic bishops, Navas was part of the delegation of the small farmers that participated in it.

This is how he acquired more relevance, and the government began to blame him for the barricades that paralyzed the country until mid-July 2018, when Ortega carried out “operation clean-up” with paramilitaries and weapons of war, killing more than 300 Nicaraguans.

Navas was captured by the Ortega police for the first time on November 17, 2018. He was caught in his home in Villa Libertad. They beat him until he fainted.

Navas and his wife were not living at home. Instead, they were on the run staying in safe houses. But that November 17 they came home to look for clothes and someone betrayed them. The police arrived in the evening. He was implicated in the same case as Medardo Mairena, who was held responsible for the murder of police officers in Morrito, Rio San Juan.

Police snatch the cell phone of campesino leader Freddy Navas, outside his home. LA PRENSA/ARCHIVES/SCREENSHOT

In prison, Navas suffered with lumbar problems and a broken nose, in addition to being beaten. We had to take the jailers medications for him because the swelling and pain meant that he could not even get out of bed.

He was released with the amnesty of June 2019, when the bulk of the political prisoners at that time were released.

Once again Navas had to go into hiding, but he always participated in the farmers’ movement.

Eleven months ago, he returned home. The struggle he undertook since 2013 to save his lands and see a “free Nicaragua” had seriously affected his farm. The production on his land is not the same. It has severely declined.

From that moment on, he did not leave his house. He couldn’t. Every day the Ortega police were there. It was like he was under house arrest without having been accused of any crime. Moreover, without having committed one.

The Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH) could do nothing to ensure that his rights were not being violated.

On July 5, 2021, the Ortega’s police arrested him again. Without any reason, although the government accuses him of conspiracy to commit damage to national integrity.

A dog barked when the police arrived. “Tie it up or we’ll kill it,” they told him. They closed the street for several hours and left the house in chaos, raided.

They took so many things that the family has not yet been able to determine exactly what was taken.

Current status

Imprisoned in the infamous El Chipote, Navas is woken up at dawn, either to bathe or to be interrogated, always with the same questions.

“Where are your children?” they ask. He doesn’t say anything they want to hear. Then the police tell him that they know where we are,” says Freddy Jr.

The family is very concerned about him, especially his health, since, apart from his lumbar problems, he has never been sick, and now he has even been prescribed blood pressure pills. He has lost 45 pounds and can’t sleep because they either leave the light on for a long time or else the opposite, you stay in the dark for a long time.

“My dad is just a simple farmer who likes to read and read,” Navas Jr. concludes.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.