Manipulation of Family Visits to Political Prisoners Denounced

We demand the release of the political prisoners. Photo: Carlos Herrera / Confidencial


Relatives have seen them once for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, the government says that it respects rights.

Government recognizes 204 prisoners, of which seven are already convicted. However, human rights organizations have registered more than three hundred political prisoners.


By Wilfredo Miranda Aburto & Maynor Salazar  (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Daniel Ortega’s regime published a series of photographs that, according to them, show that they “are respecting the human rights” of political prisoners in the penitentiary system. “The Government of Nicaragua guarantees that terrorists receive visits of family members, who also bring them essential products,” were the headlines in official media outlets on Wednesday. However, relatives of the prisoners regretted the “manipulation” by the government.

The relatives of political prisoners in the “La Modelo” (Model) prison assured Confidencial that they been able to see them once. The photographs of family visits shown by Luis Canas, Deputy Minister of the Interior, are from the so-called “special visits,” which is mandatory. The “special visit” happens when the prisoners are transferred from the El Chipote interrogation center to other prisons.

“The special visit to my husband, Carlos Brenes, was on September 3rd. We saw him only for 15 minutes. Before and after that date, we have not been able to see him…and do not know when we could see him again,” said Salvadora Martinez, spouse of the retired coronel, who is accused of terrorism and other crimes.

The relatives of the political prisoners Medardo Mairena, Pedro Mena, Tomas Maldonado Perez, Edwin Carcache and Cristhian Fajardo agreed that they were able to be with them during the “special visit” which lasts 15 minutes. Prisoners are allowed to talk with their relatives through a glass and via telephone.

“The entire time we were with Edwin, the officers did not stop taking pictures and filming the visit”, lamented Mercedes Davila, mother of Edwin Carcache. The “special visit” of the university leader occurred on September 14th. “There were many people around us and we could not speak freely, nor could I ask my son how he really was,” added Davila.

The relatives of rural leaders Medardo Mairena and Pedro Mena confirmed on the program “Esta Noche” (Tonight) that they “have no information” of them since July 26th, when they had the “special visit” at La Modelo.

“We know they are in [that prison in] Tipitapa, but we could also believe that they are not there because they do not let us see them,” said Alfredo Mairena. “In El Chipote they were tortured and now we do not know how they are. There are many rumors in social networks and we are very concerned by the rejection of our request to see them by the judicial system,” he added.

Jessenia Maldonado, daughter of Tomas Maldonado, labelled these photos as “manipulation.” Before and after the “special visit” we have not been able to see the retired major, who for two weeks was disappeared after being captured by paramilitaries.

Mistreatment is reported

The peasants Medardo Mairena, Pedro Mena and Silvio Pineda, Cristhian Fajardo (leader of the April 19th Movement in Masaya), and the former military officers Maldonado and Brenes are in a maximum security unit called “Little Hell”. Reports of ill-treatment against these political prisoners have increased by the relatives.

Mariela Cerrato Vazquez, mother of Maria Adilia Peralta Cerrato and mother-in-law of Cristhian Fajardo, said that she hasn’t seen her son-in-law in 45 days.

“We don’t know how he is. They say that he is sick, but we don’t know. They have not even allowed him to make a phone call,” said Cerrato Vazquez. “Although the judge authorized to provide him with flip-flops, a book and some towels, inside the prison they do not allow anything. The poor guy is with same underpants,” she added.

Kelder Mena, son of Pedro Mena, told “Esta Noche” that they had lodged three requests in order to see their father, to know how he is. According to him, rumors about his condition “could be true or false,”

“We as relatives don’t know, because we have not been able to see them,” stated Kelder Mena. “We received some information that he has been sick, even that he had convulsed due to fever, but a doctor has not seen him,” added the son of this peasant leader.

Julio Montenegro, lawyer of these rural leaders, informed that his defendants were confined in a dark place, fed with rotten food and chained in hands and feet.

The regime responds with photos

Photo of one of the “special” 15 minute visits.

Faced with all these complaints from the relatives, the Ortega regime was forced to respond. It did so through the Deputy Minister of the Interior, Luis Canas. The official presented images to government media in which the relatives of the political prisoners are seen during the “special visits”. And, the peasant leaders, could be seen supposedly receiving medical attention in the month of July at the hands of officers of the penitentiary.

The regime recognizes 204 prisoners, of which seven are already convicted. However, national and international human rights organizations have registered more than 300 political prisoners, who in most cases were arbitrarily detained, often with the participation of paramilitary groups.

“Mister Medardo Mairena has 7 relatives that went to see him on July 26: a daughter, a son, two brothers, two sisters and his spouse. At the August visit they did not show up and now, on September 25th, is the next visit. However, his brother, José Alfredo Mairena Sequeira has sent him packages on August 21st, August 28th and September 6th, said Canas.

Alfredo Mairena denied that they did not show up for the visits. Rather, he said that they were never informed when to show up. “When we went to leave the packages, the penitentiary system always tells us that they are going to call us,” said the son of Medardo Mairena.

Other relatives of political prisoners agreed with the son of the rural leader. “I saw him during the mandatory visit, the one that lasts 15 minutes. But, since that day when I go to “La Modelo” they do not tell me anything. They change the hours and the days of visits as they please and they do not inform us,” stated Cerrato Vazquez.

According to Deputy Minister Canas, the relatives of Medardo Mairena are lying to the media: “They say that they have not seen him for so many months, of not knowing about him, but we even responded to a letter from his lawyer. The scheduled of visits was sent to them: September 25, October 29, November 30 and December 27. He also has conjugal visits, that are already programmed,” said the Deputy Minister.

Gonzalo Carrion, Legal Director of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), said that presenting the photographs has a “publicity purpose.”

“The regime wants to impose this issue over the matter of substance: that for all these people the right to due process was violated when they were arbitrarily arrested, denying from the beginning the right of accompaniment by their relatives and their right to a defense; as well as holding trial hearings behind closed doors,” stated Carrion.

However, the worse thing for this defender of human rights is “the perverse behavior of the government” to promote hoaxes in social networks regarding the conditions of political prisoners and then deny them. “They did the same with the dead. They attempt to calm the grievances of society over political prisoners,” said Carrion.

Irregularities at the La Esperanza Women’s Prison

Rebeca Montenegro, mother of Elsa Valle and wife of political prisoner Carlos Valle, reacted to information published on social networks by the official media. She expressed that the image disseminated, in which she is embracing her daughter is from July 21st, during the mandatory visit of 15 minutes at the prison “La Esperanza” in Tipitapa.

“On that day we waited more than four hours to see her, and it was quick. Afterwards, we saw her on August 7th but again they did allow us the stipulated time, which is three hours. It was until August 28th and September 18th, that they gave us the three hours,” Montenegro expressed.

The mother of Elsa Valle denounced that her daughter continues without receiving specialized medical attention for her ankle injury. “A doctor came, didn’t even touch her, gave a pill and that was it,” she insisted.

In the case of the women in the La Esperanza prison, Montenegro stated that the three hours stipulated are being met thanks to the complaints made and their publication in the communication media.

“My daughter is very upset, very hurt, for what they could do to her father at El Chipote. She was broken and cried a lot…but then it passed because she knows that her father is a strong man,” Montenegro continued.

She insisted that her daughter receives mistreatment from the prison warden, who constantly harasses her by pointing in a grotesque way that she “is just as her father, because she talks too much.” And that one day she will bring some “gloves for her to be beaten.”

“Since when does a lady of your rank joke with a political prisoner? My daughter asked her. The warden remained quiet,” stated the mother of Elsa Valle.

Montenegro also had the opportunity to ask her daughter about Brenda Munoz, the political prisoner from Diria, who is in the terminal phase of cancer. Confidencial consulted her daughter, Cinthia Maltez, however, she explained that she has not been able to see her and that the next visit is scheduled September 25th.

“Brenda is very ill; her abdomen is very swollen. The lady could die at any moment. She blames the prison system, because she is exposed even though she is very sick, and they do nothing. There is another woman prisoner in serious condition, which seems to be appendicitis. They ask for attention, because they are at risk, they can die,” Montenegro expressed.