Ortega’s Remaining Political Prisoners Feel “Forgotten”

Of the 37 remaining political prisoners, 16 of them are being held in the “Jorge Navarro” prison in Tipitapa, better known as “La Modelo.”

Relatives of the remaining political prisoners accuse prison authorities of failing to deliver some of the food packages they send their imprisoned loved ones, or to provide them with medical attention.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – Edder Muñoz Centeno has now spent over 500 days in “La Granja” prison in Granada, Nicaragua. He’s been there since November 2021, when he was rearrested for the third time. When Edder discovered he hadn’t been included in the group of 222 political prisoners that were released and banished on February 9, he “broke down emotionally.” He remains, “very badly off psychologically, very depressed,” states his wife, Maribel Rodriguez. It’s a feeling shared by the other 36 political prisoners who were “left behind” in the Ortega regime’s jails.

Kevin Castillo Prado is in the Leon penitentiary. Rearrested in 2021, the 29-year-old told his wife he feels abandoned. “It’s not going to be the same now, because there are much fewer of us,” he declared to his partner, who asked to remain anonymous for reasons of safety.

She’s concerned about Castillo’s depressive state and the lack of medical attention. Her husband’s lungs were left weak after he caught Covid in 2020, a condition complicated by his chronic high blood pressure. “He’s had some bad bouts of hypertension,” his wife notes with concern, but they wouldn’t give him medical attention.

Due to the state of terror imposed by the Ortega regime, relatives of the political prisoners are fearful of speaking openly about the situation of these prisoners and the violations of their human rights. Nonetheless, the three sources that agreed to speak with Confidencial coincided in saying that the political prisoners all feel dispirited.

Maribel Rodriguez says her husband’s family try to encourage him, assuring him that despite the release of the 222 political prisoners, national and international pressures to free the rest are still going on.  Even though Muñoz and Castillo– in the Leon and Granada penitentiaries respectively – were both on the official list created by the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners, they were never notified on that early morning of February 9, when 222 of their fellow political prisoners were released and loaded onto a plane for the United States.

Yaritzha Mairena, who represents the National Union of Nicaraguan Political Prisoners, assures that the situation of the 37 remaining political prisoners “is delicate,” because “they’ve been left largely forgotten” following the massive prisoner release.

It’s clear to Mairena that demands for the liberation of the political prisoners have diminished. She warned that it was precisely Ortega’s tactic to free some and leave others in prison, in order to “lower the [international] pressure.”

International demand for their freedom

“We need to pay more attention to the abandonment the remaining political prisoners are suffering. The campaigns and their visibility need to be increased, along with pressure on the regime to free these political prisoners,” Mairena expressed.

In a statement issued in February, the families of these left-behind political prisoners asked the international community and human rights organizations for their continued support in gaining their release. The list of the remaining 37 prisoners includes ten citizens who were detained before the 2018 civic rebellion.

Numerous countries and offices from the United Nations have demanded that the Ortega regime free all Nicaraguans who are being held behind bars for exercising their right to protest. The international outcry for the government to exhibit Bishop Rolando Alvarez – legally in forced disappearance – finally forced the regime to show him on the evening of March 25. At that time, Ortega government authorities released photos and videos of the prelate – visibly thinner and pale – in a close-fitting prison uniform. Media posts released by the Ortega propaganda machinery include a video where the Bishop can be seen sharing a meal with his sister Vilma and brother Manuel Alvarez Lopez, in a setting arranged for the occasion in the penitentiary known as La Modelo.

Monsignor Alvarez had refused to be banished with the other political prisoners on February 9; in retaliation, the regime sentenced him to 26 years in prison, and transferred him from house arrest to the Penitentiary System in Tipitapa.

The extremely poor conditions of the other political prisoners haven’t varied: their family food packages are delivered incomplete; medical attention is deficient; and their right to receive sunlight in the prison yard is often violated. The majority have received family visits, but there are cases such as that of Jaime Navarrete, who has been placed in a maximum security cell. It’s been two months since his family has had any word of him or contact with him.

Navarrete has no close family in Nicaragua. His only uncle, Rodrigo Navarrete, who was the one bringing him food packets, was himself imprisoned last November.

Margine Blandon, Navarrete’s mother, is in a state of desperation, because she doesn’t know anything about her son’s condition. To make it worse, a group of people who agreed to collaborate by bringing him food packages haven’t able to do so, because the guards won’t allow them entry into La Modelo. For the last seven weeks, prison authorities have even refused to receive the food packages.

Navarette was detained by the police for the second time in 2019. He was handed an initial sentence of three years and six months in jail, imposed for fabricated common crimes. Nonetheless, the judge – in a highly questionable procedural action – added on a previous 22-year sentence that had been pardoned through the Sandinista’s Amnesty Law. His mother clamors for his freedom in a tearful voice and demands some response regarding his physical condition.

Sentence still unknown

Nearly two years after he was imprisoned, Kevin Castillo still doesn’t know what his sentence was. The last time he was brought to a legal hearing, they told him he’d be notified of the punishment, but that never happened. “Kevin doesn’t know how many (years) they sentenced him to,” says his wife, who is also unaware of it.

Castillo was charged with the supposed crime of stealing a bicycle and sentenced to a year in prison. He left jail in 2020, but then in September of 2021 he was once again imprisoned, following a violent search of his home in Leon. The Courts accused him of supposedly harboring drugs. Edder Muñoz was also sentenced to nine years for supposed drug trafficking and illegal arms possession.

With the exception of Monsignor Alvarez, the 37 remaining political prisoners were charged and found guilty of common crimes by the Ortega justice system as a ruse to send them to prison. The families reject the accusations and affirm that the cases were fabricated by the Public Prosecutor. Castillo shares a cell with other common prisoners, who must endure the same extreme conditions. His wife found out that for three days, he and his five cellmates had no access to potable water and survived with just three liters.

The crime of writing: “Long live a free Nicaragua”

Victor Manuel Carranza, 39; Daniel Agustin Cerrato, 39; Axel Manuel Gonzalez, 20; and Jeffrey Jose Ortega, 28 were all detained in Managua on January 18 of this year. The police picked them up and interrogated them for supposedly writing the words “Viva Nicaragua Libre!” [Long Live a Free Nicaragua] on a monument erected by the Managua Mayor’s office.  

During the trial, the Prosecution accused the youth of internal drug trafficking, an accusation that is denied by a source close to the family. They also state that the men were taken from their homes and not intercepted in the street as the Public Prosecutor’s office alleges.

The four remain in La Modelo where they’re being treated as political prisoners. Their food is limited and of poor quality, the source denounced, adding that they’ve also had problems with the delivery of food packets, because the prisoners don’t receive everything sent to them.

Of the 27 political prisoners who were imprisoned in the context of 2018, three are priests, one is a former police official, one is the relative of another political prisoner, one is a lawyer, and nine were political prisoners who were released under the 2019 Amnesty Law but later rearrested.

“All of them have been detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression or of demonstration. They’ve been the victims of a series of violations to their human rights during their reclusion, as well as violations to the basic guarantees of respect for due process,” indicates the Mechanism in their February 2023 report.

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