Nicaragua’s Political Prisoners: Isolation, Interrogation & Torture

Cells of the new “El Chipote” jail for political prisoners. Photo: taken from the government website El 19 Digital.

Third visit in over five months confirms that they keep Dora María Téllez, Tamara Dávila, Ana Margarita Vigil and Suyen Barahona in solitary punishment cells.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – For more than five months, the Ortega regime has subjected political prisoners jailed in the El Chipote police complex to constant interrogation, isolated with little light, hunger and worsening of their chronic diseases. Their relatives confirm their condition after the third visit allowed in more than half a year, since the arrests began at the end of May 2018, despite the fact that national legislation establishes the right to a weekly visit.

Visit with the political prisoners confirms their isolation

Of the political prisoners, captured in the last wave of repression by Daniel Ortega, prior to the November 7 vote, 31 of them share cells in El Chipote. However, four women: Dora Maria Tellez, Tamara Davila, Ana Margarita Vigil and Suyen Barahona, members of the Democratic Renovation Union (UNAMOS), remain in total isolation in solitary confinement cells since they were arrested around 160 days ago.

Peltier Barahona, brother of Suyen Barahona, president of UNAMOS, assures that she remains “steadfast, strong and that they will never break her,” despite the fact that she has been alone for more than five months. Her family is concerned about her mood and the separation from her son.

“We are running out of ways to explain to him that his mother cannot be there for him (…) For Suyen that means an act of torture that is outside of all due process. The fact that she is being deprived of the role of raising her son, which is a right she has as his mother. It is really cruel,” complaints her brother.

Although conditions are precarious for all political prisoners, the most “urgent” case is that of Tamara Dávila, who “remains completely incommunicado,” points out Victoria Cárdenas, wife of presidential candidate, Juan Sebastián Chamorro. Bertha Valle, wife of the also presidential candidate, Félix Maradiaga, highlighted the case of Davila and demanded a more humane treatment for all prisoners.

The political prisoners face accelerated weight loss, constant interrogation, denial of access to their lawyers, reduced portions of food which are leading to malnutrition, blockade of the entry of food by their relatives and zero communication with the outside. Until this November 15, some of the prisoners of conscience learned of Ortega’s hate speech, in which he called them “sons of bitches,” “stateless people,” and suggested exiling them.

Opposition politician José Pallais told his wife, Jilma Herdocia, that he has never thought of going into exile. While other detainees could not even comment on the socio-political context due to the level of surveillance during the visits.

María Consuelo Cespedes visited her husband, Walter Gómez, former financial manager of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation this Tuesday, November 16. The 55-year-old man has lost 37 pounds in six months of confinement. He does not get sunlight and remains in darkness all the time, so she fears that his vision may be affected.

His wife found him in good spirits, even though the interrogations continue. This third visit “hit us hardest” because “we do not want to leave him,” she expressed downcast. For two hours they limited themselves to talking about family issues because the surroundings did not allow to delve into the situation in the country, she said.

Violeta Granera with dental and gastric problems

Julio Sandino, son of Violeta Granera and exile in the United States, assures that his mother has lost a little more than 25 pounds, but she is trying to eat to pull through. Although it is “extremely hard to be without freedom,” she continues to resist with the help of God, he said.

Granera suffers from dental and gastric problems, which makes it difficult her to eat. “Her teeth broke due to the hardness of some meals, and she needs urgent dental work done because she cannot eat any more with her front teeth. She takes a long time to eat and that gives her gastric problems. There are some foods that she cannot eat because they are fried and hard,” stated her son.

In the loneliness of the jail, Granera dedicates herself to pray from when she awakens. Her call to the population is not to lose hope and resist.

José Pallais with sores on his back

“He is getting by” replies lawyer Jose Pallais’s wife, Jilma Herdocia, after she visited him in jail. The opposition politician continues to lose weight, but no longer at an accelerated rate. He also suffers from pain and has sores on his back. He sleeps in a chair to cope with sleep apnea and continues to take antibiotics.

“A few days ago, he was sleeping very badly,” his wife said. When he was arrested, they kept him in isolation, but he currently shares a cell with another political prisoner. They only come out for interrogation or visits to the clinic. From Herdocia’s perspective, the treatment of detainees “is softer” because they are no longer woken up at night. “He is morally strong,” she remarked.

Felix Maradiaga in darkness

However, in the case of the presidential hopeful, Félix Maradiaga, prison conditions have not changed: he remains in complete darkness, he barely receives sunlight every ten days for about 15 minutes. The diet is deficient, the interrogations are constant, and he must remain silent. For his wife, Bertha Valle, these circumstances do not constitute the slightest respect for human dignity.

“The issue of health monitoring of political prisoners is not something that is being taken seriously. There are people who have various health complications,” Valle noted. Concerning the interrogations of her husband, Valle indicated that the questions are linked to “false accusations” against the opponents. They have become repetitive, so she considers that the true intention is to maintain the psychological pressure on them.

Maradiaga and the rest of the political prisoners had been without seeing their relatives for 41 days, since the last visit, on October 11. “That is an act of torture,” Valle denounced.

Norma Vega, wife of Pedro Vasquez, driver of Cristiana Chamorro —who is under house arrest—, said that his health condition and spirits remain steadfast and strong. 

“I leave everything in the hands of God because our only judge is Jesus Christ. I keep thinking positively, and we will eventually get out of this,” Vasquez told his wife.

Some of Ortega’s now more than 170 political prisoners.

Lesther Aleman goes hungry and Aguirre Sacasa under interrogation

Lesbia Alfaro, mother of the student leader, Lesther Alemán, assures that her son is much better, both physically and spiritually, compared to her previous visit. However, the 25 pounds weight loss is notable. Alemán is thinner and looks pale because he barely gets sunlight for ten minutes once a week.

He also experiences a lot of headaches that, according to Alemán, are caused by the confinement and lack of food, due to hunger. The food portions provided are insufficient. Some days they give them two drinks and others just one. At the same time, he suffers from backpains because the mattress that covers the cold prison concrete slab is too thin and because of his height, he must lie down with his legs drawn up.

The interrogations are daily for a lapse of half an hour, indicated Alfaro, who demands that they allow the entry of food to all political prisoners.

Former Foreign Minister, Francisco Aguirre Sacasa, is interrogated two to three times a day. They wake him up at four in the morning for no reason. The rest of the time, like the rest of the prisoners, he must remain silent, which is “mental torture,” said his daughter, Georgie Aguirre.

Jose Adan Aguerri could not say goodbye to his mother

Carolina Jackson, daughter of former president of the Supreme Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), Jose Adan Aguerri, said that her father has lost 30 pounds and “psychologically he is affected by the death of his mother and not being able to say goodbye to her. He is concerned and pained for his family and his country,” she said.

Aguerri’s mother, Hilda Chamorro Hurtado, died on October 11, without the opportunity to see her son released, arrested by the Ortega regime, on June 8th. Jackson assures that the prisoners of conscience are not well and does not know why they have not had a report of the medical check-ups that legal medicine carried out.

A general demand of political prisoners is that they allow them to enter blankets and clothes for the cold, since they are currently covered with towels, which are not enough for the changing temperatures that are characteristic of the end of the year. Likewise, they request that they be allowed to enter Bibles. Family members continue to demand their freedom and invited the population to join in fasting and prayer this past Thursday, November 18. They clamor for a “Christmas without political prisoners.”

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.


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