Nicaragua: Illegal Searches & Abuse Mark Anniversary

Riot control agents were widely dispatched for the third anniversary of the April Rebellion. Photo: Nayira Valenzuela / Confidencial

Those opposing the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo found diverse ways to protest, despite the state violence and impunity.

By Ivette Munguia (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Arbitrary arrests, illegal searches and the tightening of the de facto police state.  These were the prevailing police responses on April 19th, a date marking three years since the 2018 rebellion in Nicaragua. The police intensified their siege of prominent opposition members’ homes, this time engaging in warrantless searches. Meanwhile, citizens found ways to evade the police controls and to protest.

Yesenia Estrada, is the mother of released political prisoner Byron Corea. She denounced the presence of some fifty police officers, accompanied by three dogs. This huge contingent – under the command of Leon’s police chief Fidel Dominguez- burst into her home. Only her seventy-year-old mother, Maria Olympia Mayorga, was there.

According to her mother, the officials “gave three kicks” to the door to open it. Once inside, they “demanded the deeds to the house, and all the important documents.” Defying their demands, “my mother said no. So, they went into the rooms and took everything apart.”

According to Yesenia Estrada, the officials never showed a warrant. When they finished their search, they carried off two cellphones and a laptop. “It’s an abuse of authority. They came and searched us without a warrant. They’re a bunch of barefaced crooks. This is all because they’re so afraid of the people.”

The Leon police then moved on to the family home of presidential pre-candidate Maria Eugenia Alonso. Approximately seventy officers arrived there, in five pick-up trucks and three motorcycles. They then made a forceful entry, in search of tech equipment or any object alluding to the protests against the regime.

Diego Reyes, Alonso’s husband, filed a complaint with the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center. He stated that the search of the home went on for fifty minutes. The police “ransacked and destroyed the home’s interior, stripping the family of five cellphones, two laptops and a tablet.”

The Reyes Alonso family has been subjected to a permanent police siege. This is the second time that the police have conducted a warrantless search of their home. The first time was on November 25, 2019. At that time Commissioner Dominguez burst arbitrarily into the house, and assaulted members of the family. Once they were handcuffed, he forced them to make a video where they committed themselves to desist from “screwing around”.

Human rights organization condemns the ongoing impunity

The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) condemned the “generalized impunity” that persists in Nicaragua. This has been an ongoing issue in the three years since the April rebellion against Daniel Ortega’s government.

The IACHR issued “an urgent call” to the Nicaraguan government. They asked it “to put an end to the impunity and adopt the measures necessary to overcome the crisis.” Also, “to reestablish the democratic institutions by initiating processes promoting truth, justice and reparations to the victims of the grave crisis the country is experiencing.”

The IACHR, an organization set up by the OAS, recapped their conclusions over the last three years. Between their first visit to Nicaragua on May 17, 2018, up through the present, they’ve “documented the perpetration of serious human rights violations. These were committed within the framework of the [government’s] violent repression of the social protests.”

“The highest State authorities continue promoting a narrative that denies the human rights violations and stigmatizes the victims. In addition, a set of laws passed in 2019 continue on the books. These are incompatible with the right to truth, access to justice and integral reparation for the victims of the repression. Among these is the Amnesty Law,” their communication stated.

More repression, more arrests

Meanwhile, the police arrested several citizens who oppose the Ortega-Murillo regime, releasing them hours later. Those held included Misael Escorcia and Julio Alvarez, who were detained on April 18 in Sebaco, Matagalpa. Their arrest was reported by the Blue and White Monitoring. The independent group followed their case until they were freed the next afternoon.

Also arrested on April 18 were: Emilio Rodriguez in Somoto, Madriz; Osman David Lovo Davila in El Rosario, Carazo; released political prisoner Reynaldo Escorcia in Leon; and Mauro Ortiz in Jinotega. The next day, April 19, Janny Estrada was arrested in Managua and Jairo Miranda in Totogalpa, Madriz.

Members of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy during a flash protest. Courtesy photo.

On this third anniversary, the police kept members of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy from leaving the headquarters of Nicaraguan Medical Unity in Managua.

The group was holding a flash demonstration there, “to commemorate three years since the April 2018 insurrection”. When it finished, police officials prevented them from leaving for several hours. A number of reporters remained trapped there with them: Noel Miranda from the internet news site Articulo 66; Marcelo Conde of Dario Radio; Valeska Rivera from Channel 10; and Alberto Miranda from the internet platform “Literal”.

Denunciations of other police sieges have been widespread in the last few days. Among the victims reported by the National Human Rights Center were Carlos Pavon, the father of Richard Pavon. His son was one of the first young people to be killed in 2018. Released political prisoner Lenin Salasblanca was also under siege. So was journalist Kalua Salazar of the Atlantic Coast radio station “La Costeñisima’, and released political prisoner Neyma Hernandez, among others.

Recalling those dead, imprisoned or exiled by the regime’s repression

According to the information documented by the Special Follow-up Mechanism for Nicaragua (Meseni), to date, the crisis has had 328 fatal victims. Some 2,000 have been wounded.

“At least 1,614 people have been arbitrarily deprived of liberty. This has been in reprisal for their participation in acts of protest or government opposition,” the IACHR indicated in a report.

In addition, they noted, over 100,000 people had gone into exile. At least 150 students have been expelled from the public universities, and over 400 health workers have been fired.

The report also mentions “the attack on press freedom. This is effected by police siege and the institutionalized persecution of the independent media and those who work there. This has caused the closing of several media outlets, and the threatened closure of others. Over 90 journalists have gone into exile.”

The report goes on to specify that they’ve “observed the persistence” of a “strategy of deprivation of freedom. This is used as a tool to impede the public freedoms and to silence dissident voices.” Up through April of this year, they report 115 political prisoners in Nicaragua’s jails.

Ortega regime and FSLN try to erase the public’s memory

There’ve been repeated attempts to erase the memory of the massive 2018 anti-government protests.A group of Sandinista militants burst into the Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Chinandega. A homage to the victims of the April 2018 repression was taking place there. The activity was interrupted by a mob of Ortega loyalists, shouting “Long live Daniel!”

Riot control agents were widely dispatched for the third anniversary of the April Rebellion. Photo: Nayira Valenzuela / Confidencial

A video circulating over social media captures the moment when a group of people were demanding the freedom of the political prisoners. A woman interrupts to protest: “the church isn’t political. The church is a place to come and experience peace. Go out onto the street.” Immediately, other women begin to shout: “Long live Daniel!”

The Catholic Church has opened the doors of many of its houses of worship to the protesters. They’ve given refuge to persecuted demonstrators, aided family members of the victims, and sheltered dissenters who want to keep alive the memory of those killed.

“36 months of continuous repression”

Attorney Gonzalo Carron is a human rights defender with the collective “Nicaragua, Impunity Never +” He notes that the repression during this month of April is part of a systematic persecution of dissenters. This harassment of those opposing the government began in April 2018.

“Today, 36 months after the protests began, the repression continues. It’s had grave consequences. Among them have been human rights violations like extra-judicial executions, arbitrary imprisonment, and torture,” noted Carrion.

He insisted that “the criminalization of citizens” who are exercising their right to protest persists. The Ortega regime has intensified their police state, to maintain power, he added.

“The systematic repression hasn’t ended. It turns its fury against any voices exercising their rights. These include human rights advocates, journalists, activists, opposition figures, released political prisoners, religious leaders, farmers, and indigenous people. All of them are living in an atmosphere of government-sponsored hate campaigns,” Carrion concluded.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.