Ortega Leaves Activist Exiles in Passport Limbo

Regime denies new or renewed passports at its consulates abroad

Photo: Confidencial

The Nicaraguan embassy in Costa Rica puts “roadblocks” in the way of opposition activists who need their passport renewed. These exiled Nicaraguans are left with few options if they want to travel.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – The Ortega regime has left Nicaraguan opposition leaders and activists exiled in Costa Rica with scant possibilities for traveling to garner international support for their cause. The Nicaraguan embassy in that country has refused to renew their passports, asserting that the paperwork must be done in Managua.

The most recent case was denounced by former Sandinista guerrilla Monica Baltodano, who – together with her husband Julio Lopez and son Umanzor Baltodano – recently attempted to renew their passports. After completing the requirements and turning in their documents, they were informed that, by order of the central Migration office in Managua, they need to file their request there.

“It’s an abuse of authority on the part of the State, since they didn’t even issue a formal denial to sustain this refusal. By doing so verbally and informally, they’ve limited our possibilities of appealing the decision, since it’s been reduced to the status of “orders from above,” Baltodano lamented.

Given this situation, human rights defender Haydee Castillo noted: “while the dictatorship remains in power, the only path left to those of us who are exiled politically is to pursue our political asylum requests and legalize our situation in the destination countries.”

Nationalizing or legalizing – two very long roads

Human rights defender Gonzalo Carrion explained that in the case of the exiles who live in Costa Rica, they’re left with only two options to be able to travel. First: once they’re granted the immigration status of refugees, they can ask for a “travel document”. The other is to nationalize. However, both alternatives are very delayed, especially attaining refugee status.

“Currently, more than 130,000 Nicaraguans have applied for refugee status in Costa Rica. According to official public information, under 5% of that number have been granted refugee status to date. That is, less than 10,000 people have received asylum. Without that status, you can’t request a travel document,” explained Carrion, who belongs to the Nicaragua Nunca Mas [Nicaragua never again] human rights collective and has had an application for asylum pending for the past three years.

The human rights advocate emphasized that if a Nicaraguan only possesses the id card that identifies them as an asylum seeker, they can’t request a travel document. “I know of one case of a person in that condition who requested it and was denied,” he stated.

The second option for those exiled is to obtain Costa Rican citizenship. However, this option takes a long time and isn’t applicable to everyone. According to the website of Costa Rica’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal, nationalization is a possibility for those born of foreign parents in the country, those born to Costa Ricans outside the country, and those who have resided in the country for at least 20 years.

Nationalization is also possible for those who marry a Costa Rican and have resided in the country legally for a certain period, plus those who have been declared stateless, or stateless refugees. That latter resolution can take up to 200 business days.

Ortega uses passports as a form of repression

In Nicaragua, the Ortega-Murillo regime have cut off freedom of movement to dozens of citizens, journalists, priests, human rights advocates and activists, by imposing migratory restrictions and seizing their passports when they attempt to travel outside the country.

“There are various ‘interventions’ in relation to travel documents and passports, within Nicaragua as well as at the border stations and outside the country. It’s not just the issue of renewal,” Carrion noted.

Cases are known of businessmen, and former and current state employees who have also had emigration restrictions imposed on them. At the beginning of the month, there was a conflict in the city of Muelle de las Bueyes because a political promoter of Ortega’s FSLN asked permission to travel and was accused of treason.

Exiles fear reprisals in the embassies

Haydee Castillo, who is part of the Nicaraguan diaspora in the United States, also pointed out that there are political exiles who won’t go to the embassies for fear of reprisals, because they’ve also suffered persecution outside of Nicaragua.

“I know that many Nicaraguan political exiles won’t even go to the consulates, because we’re seen cases of persecution even while outside the country. There’s fear because the regime’s criminality isn’t only inside the country,” Carrion declared.