Journalist: “They Threatened to Kill Me and My Children”

Michelle Polanco Alvarado, Nicaraguan journalist, exiled in the United States. / Photo: taken from social networks.

Testimonies of two Nicaraguan journalists who fled the persecution by the Ortega regime and now survive in exile.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – “In 2019, they ran a smear campaign against me. One day, I went for an outing with my boyfriend. They were saying that I was a whore, because they assumed that I was with the father of my children,” journalist Michelle Polanco tells La Lupa, in the investigation report “Exiled to Survive,” which gathers some of the experiences lived by Nicaraguan women journalists who are now in exile.

Polanco is a well-known Nicaraguan journalist. For many years she worked covering social news on several local television channels, and as of 2018, her political interviews gave a push to her career. However, since then, she received death threats, some based on her gender.

“On two occasions, they threatened to kill me and my children. On one occasion, they took photos of me and my children in the supermarket, and on another occasion, in Masaya. Later they sent me a message: “Now it’s your turn, you bitch motherfucker, we’re going to shove the butt of the AK rifle up your ass,” Polanco continues.

In 2021, the journalist was forced into exile in the United States. However, she went through a long process of denial and recurring thoughts of what she left behind in Nicaragua and the uncertainty of the future.

“At first, I felt guilty because I felt that I left them, that I abandoned them, that I left Nicaragua in general,” Polanco recounts. She assures that she still feels that way but to a lesser extent.

This feeling “is something you have to deal with,” she says. “Even though I did several activities after being exiled, by doing everyday things, one ends up moderately detached from everything happening in Nicaragua, simply because of the fact of surviving, of having to work, of having to help your people,” she emphasized. 

“I lived what I wrote about persecution and repression”

Another journalist who experienced many moral judgments due to her condition as a woman was “Jacqueline,” a reporter for the newspaper La Prensa exiled in the United States who gave her testimony anonymously. She comments on the criticism she received, even from her fellow journalists, questioning her about the custody of her child, to the point of re-victimizing her when she suffered physical attacks by pro-Ortega mobs.

“My colleagues used to tell me; don’t you think about your son? As a woman, they always approached me to say such things, even in the same media where I worked, even after the Ortega’s mobs had beaten me up in the street. But to my male colleagues who had children, no one said anything! No man is told that they don’t think about their children. My male colleagues celebrate it: “You are so brave, how you stood up to them,” says Jacqueline.

“Jacqueline” explains that she decided to leave her house because “many people close to her” were telling her that she was on a list of journalists who were sought for arrest. In addition, there was the precedent of two drivers from La Prensa who were imprisoned and a colleague whose house had been searched looking for her.

When she left her house, “they began to tell me from my house and my son’s father’s house that they were policing the houses and that suspicious people were passing by. They sent me photos of men who were watching both places. I always monitored the police and persecutions. I always sympathized with opponents’ experiences, and I was living what I had written about the persecution and repression of the opposition in Nicaragua,” she emphasized.

Despite the persecution, “Jacqueline” was able to leave Nicaragua thanks to a support network. She settled temporarily in Costa Rica and then chose exile in the United States.

“When La Prensa was clear about everything, they told us: “All those who want to leave, we will help them.” So, we had some protection, quite a lot of support, at least in this last wave of exiled journalists,” Jacqueline recalls. She assures that she had no obstacles, but she ponders: “the biggest one was me at the beginning, that I did not want to leave the country, but I had to push myself, accept and leave everything behind.”

With information from La Lupa.

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