Nicaraguans from Jinotepe Describe their Exile in Costa Rica
Doctors, lawyers, professionals, fathers and mothers left everything fleeing from repression.
They left in secret, through trails, enduring hunger and thirst. In Costa Rica they reorganized as “July 8 Movement.” They yearn to return to their town, with their family, but claim “a free country.”
By Cindy Regidor (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – On the eighth of each month, exiles from the Nicaraguan city of Jinotepe in Costa Rica remember the atrocious attack perpetrated by paramilitaries and police in Carazo. On July 8, 2018, the Ortega-Murillo regime ordered the dismantling of roadblocks in that department, one of the main bastions of civic protest, which broke out in April throughout the country.
“We felt committed and we felt that we represented the people of Jinotepe,” says Moises Silva, business administrator and one of the organizers of the marches and demonstrations in that municipality.
This young man had been living in San Jose for eight months, as has Rodolfo Rojas Cordero, a 60-year-old lawyer, who attends the interview wearing a blue and white bowtie, and recalls the massive demonstrations in his city. “Everyone was self-convoked,” You would go to the center of the city, in the park, and people began to organize the marches every day, until they were totally repressed,” he laments.
“China,” a young woman law graduate, was one of the self-convoked. She got involved after losing her job in a coffee shop, which closed because of the crisis that paralyzed the country. “I started going to a sit-in in the park, and the marches. I was there the day they attacked us in the church (of Diriamba). I said: “It cannot be that this is happening and that people remain silent and not say anything…” I started going to the caravans and when the roadblocks were set-up I began to distribute coffee, bring refreshments, bread, something so the boys could have something to eat and when I became aware I was staying and being part of the medical post of the “Colegio San Jose” roadblock,” she says.
Allan Acevedo, then a student of Business Administration at the Regional Multidisciplinary Faculty of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (FAREM-Carazo), was also at the same medical post. “We attended four births. Despite the circumstances of the barricades and the sieges that we had at night, the mothers came to be attended, the patients, the whole community supported us,” he recalls.
“From the first day, they showed that they did not want anything, from that moment they started to fire bullets. There are videos and reports, wounded and everything. We got completely involved in the struggle and from there we decided to be firm until the end, wherever we were and we are in exile, but continue struggling to see Nicaragua free,” adds Rodolfo Rojas Arburola, a civil engineer and son of Rodolfo Rojas Cordero.
The attack against the municipalities of Diriamba, Dolores and Jinotepe was one of the most violent carried out by the dictatorship. It left at least twenty dead, dozens of wounded, kidnapped and tortured.
On trails, with hunger and thirst
“On July 8, they attacked us, they massacred us completely. They killed friends of mine, childhood friends, neighborhood friends,” recalls Allan Acevedo. He was not the only one to lose a loved one in that attack. “That day they killed my friend and brother of many years, Ricardo Largaespada Ramos, who was a lawyer,” laments Rojas Cordero.
That July 8 began the exodus. Hundreds of people from Carazo left fleeing from the bullets of the regime at the risk of been kidnapped or killed, because after the attack, an operation followed to track, kidnap and imprison the demonstrators.
“That was horrible. I spent eight days hidden, not even my family knew where I was because I was afraid that they would follow them,” says “China” says.
Rojas Arburola and Acevedo walked for day through wilderness, enduring hunger and thirst, fearing that a police patrol would surprise them. That is how they arrived in Costa Rica.
This is the second time that Rojas Cordero is in exile. In 1978, when he was fifteen years old, he had to go into exile in Mexico after getting involved in the struggle against the Somoza dictatorship. “At that time I fought hoping that dictatorships in Nicaragua would be totally eradicated and I supported the overthrow of the Somoza regime. With the passing of time we have realized that what was being consolidated was another dictatorship,” he reflects.
“The solidarity networks that they organized in the protests, now allow them to face together the harsh reality of exile.”
“Mariano” is also an exile from Carazo. He was a doctor in Jinotepe and was fired for attending injured demonstrators. “I had to move from several houses, until I decided to go into exile because I could not continue in Nicaragua,” he says. Even outside his country, “Mariano” fears for his life and that of his family. “We know there are people who are coming to Costa Rica, from the CPC (Citizens Power Councils), to identify where we live and then give our location and information,” he tells.
Rojas Arburola also affirms that there are people in the country sent by the Ortega Murillo regime to locate, intimidate and harm them. “Here in Costa Rica there are people sent by them, they are locating us…threatening through social networks, through calls, I don’t know how they get the phone numbers,” he reports.
The struggle to survive
Exile is full of adversities. “The most painful thing is to come here and not to know what for, or where, to leave your family and everything behind, to abandon everything. It is hard to get a job; it costs a lot. I already had the opportunity to be working in a place, but for the same reason of not having papers, they robbed me, they did not pay me well,” China tells us.
Silva emphasizes the work that various “Jinotepinos” do in conjunction with other organizations and entities to help Nicaraguans who have arrived. “Our work has been extended from the civic to the humanitarian struggle. That is the work that we have done in these eight months that we have in exile,” he says, after reporting that most of them live jam-packed, without access to health, education, work. The Costa Rican authorities have been supportive, but they have also been victims of xenophobia.
“Even still having the working permit has been difficult, because once I arrived to a place to request a job, with my resume, they would ask if I was Costa Rican,” says Rojas Arburola. When I identify myself as a refugee, they tell me “we are going to call you.” And, he is still unemployed.
“Mariano,” on the other hand, hopes to practice medicine. “Several doctors are asking to be temporarily allowed to practice and continue to survive in this country. We are doing the paperwork of equivalency of titles, awards and we are waiting. The situation has been very difficult for us,” he regrets.
Return to Nicaragua
Carazo exiles want to return to Nicaragua, but demand security guarantees.
Rojas Cordero hopes to return to see his other son, who was a political prisoner of the regime: “They just released my son, Raul Ernesto Rojas Bello. He was unjustly detained for eight months, an excellent professional, worker (…) they gave him total freedom because they did not find anything,” he commented.
Rojas Cordero demands “that in Nicaragua the right to protest be restored, to demonstrate freely and that we exercise our constitutional rights.”
Silva says that in exile they are “clear that here, since we were in the struggle, we have to endure some more, be conscientious, be patient” and wait that in the negotiation of the Civic Alliance “something promising for the refugees will come out.” He wants to have guarantees to return.
“If there are early elections, that is going to be our trench. We have to change the mentality of the barricade, we have to be clear that we have to reach a democracy in our country through a civic way,” he says.
“China” also looks forward to return: “I dream of returning to my house, see my children, be in my country, but in a free country, not the one we have now.”