From Nicaraguan TV journalist to washing cars in exile

Nicaraguan journalist Armando Amaya. File photo: La Prensa

Amaya left Nicaragua to attend a post-graduate course in Guatemala, and was blocked from returning. He’s left stranded in a country where he has no relatives or friends.

By La Prensa

HAVANA TIMES – Armando Amaya is a  journalist who had resigned himself to living a semblance of a “normal” life in Nicaragua, far from the camaras and microphones. He had begun exercising his profession in a clandestine way, and was even studying for a different career.

The past five years of political crisis in Nicaragua have also meant censorship and violence directed against journalists. Amaya had overcome his fears about living in the country. The fractured arm he got as a result of the police repression had healed, and he was enthusiastically studying Law in Managua’s Universidad de Ciencias Comerciales.

At the same time, Armando continued taking advantage of different opportunities for professional development as a journalist. He left Nicaragua in January of this year to conclude a post-graduate course in Communications, Human Rights and Diversity, invited by the Latin American Social Sciences Institute [Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales]. However, when it came time for him to return, the Nicaraguan authorities blocked him from reentering his own country.

“On January 26, I came to Guatemala; and on the 28, when I was going to return home, they denied me entry. The airlines officials told me I’d had to resolve the matter at the Nicaraguan Embassy in Guatemala. However, lawyers for the organizations that supported me in the course, advised me not to report to the Embassy, because they could retain or take away my passport,” Armando Amaya related.

Arrest warrant rumored in Nicaragua

His former neighbors have recently warned the 39-year-old journalist that some men had been asking about him in the neighborhood where he used to live with his mother.

“They’re going around with a copy of the photo when I fractured my arm. They’re showing it house-to- house, asking about me and my family, and saying there’s a warrant out for my arrest,” Amaya stated.

Armando Amaya at the close of the Latin American Social Sciences Institute course in Guatemala. Courtesy photo / La Prensa

Prior to 2018, Amaya had been considered a very charismatic journalist, popular in the field with his daily coverage of Managua. He was always pleasant and smiling, habitually dressed in formal shirt and pants, with his hair carefully slicked back and wearing sunglasses on the hot Managua days. He covered incidents, social events, and the economy, but he comments that his strong point was political reporting.

Armando Amaya worked for Channel 8 when it was owned by Carlos Briceño, and also on Channel 12 and 23.

When the weekends approached, Amaya would pass among his colleagues the menu for a Sunday lunch that was served in his house. There, his mother sold beef soup, the Nicaraguan stew known as Baho, and the Nicaraguan meat-and-rice filled tamales called Nacatamales. Often, his colleagues would get together to spend a few pleasant hours in his simple but warm family home.

Armando Amaya and other colleagues in Managua. Courtesy photo / La Prensa

Armando was an only child, but he grew up beside his adopted siblings, who his mother raised as her own. From the time he was 13, he collaborated in community radio stations, an experience that served to cultivate his vocation as a journalist. He later received a scholarship to study Communications at the Central American University.

The scenario in 2018

As with all the journalists, coverage of the 2018 protests and the police repression meant having to run away a number of times with his cameraman, fleeing the bullets and rocks. Nonetheless, he still believes it was the best moment to practice journalism and be able to inform the public what was happening in Nicaragua. At that time, he was also the recipient of crude insults from some public officials, threatening him with sexual violence if he continued reporting.

In October 2019, amid the violent police repression of a demonstration of young people at a Managua mall, Amaya was attacked by a police officer. He tripped while fleeing the police attack, and fractured his left arm. He filed a complaint with the human rights organizations, but that only served to focus the eyes of the regime on him. In 2021, he left Nicaragua, amid a wave of persecution against journalists and dissenters.

Over 200 Nicaraguan journalists have left the country since 2018, fleeing death threats, persecution, and political violence.

At the end of 2021, Amaya returned, because his mother was very ill. In 2022, he managed to regain some stability, and was studying for a Law degree at Managua’s Universidad de Ciencias Comerciales. He continued reporting, but now anonymously, on a website called La Cutacha Noticiosa [“The News Machete”].

Marcos Medina’s testimony moved him to speak

Armando Amaya has now been living in Guatemala for six months. He had opted to remain silent about his situation, for fear the regime would take reprisals on his family. However, when he heard the testimony of journalist Marcos Medina, who was also prevented from returning to his native Nicaragua this week, he was moved to denounce the situation he himself was facing in this, his second forced exile.

Amaya’s daily life today is completely different than the life he was leading in Managua, where he had once been a TV journalist with many plans and desires to continue growing professionally.

As the days passed in Guatemala and he was unable to return to his country, he found it necessary to earn some money to support himself, pay rent, and eat. He looked around him and didn’t hesitate to accept a job he never would have taken in Nicaragua.

“Here in Guatemala, there are signs everywhere saying they need people to wash cars. So that where you realize there’s work. In the area where I live, there are a lot of these places people look for to wash cars,” Amaya explained.

Although his job in the car wash pays the rent and lets him eat, the only thing that really worries him is his mother’s health. As a result of this whole situation, she’s very sick once again.

“I’m in a place where I have nothing – no opportunities – but my mother has a disability and she’s very ill. She can’t work anymore,” Armando said over the telephone, his voice trailing off with emotion.

Armando Amaya is alone in Guatemala, with no relatives or acquaintances. His work in the car wash is only enough to pay rent and food. If you’d like to donate to help journalist Armando Rene Amaya Dávila, you can make a contribution in his name to the Banco Industrial account in dollars: #1980308660.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times