As their Person of the Year for 2021, Confidencial chose each one of the 167 political prisoners. They all defeated Daniel Ortega in the November 7th elections.
HAVANA TIMES – In the year 2021, marked by the intensification of the de facto police state and the political persecution in Nicaragua, the Ortega regime increased the number of political prisoners to 167. Sixty-seven new prisoners of conscience were added between the end of May and the middle of November.
Confidencial has chosen each one of these prisoners as their Person of the Year for 2021. They defeated Daniel Ortega in the electoral farce on November 7th, an election where the dictator may have eliminated his electoral competition but didn’t win at the ballot box.
This year, the Ortega regime carried out a new and unprecedented political witch hunt. Seven of the opposing candidates who aspired to challenge him for the vote were arrested between June and August, in order to guarantee the dictator’s reelection without political competition. All this was overseen by a malformed electoral system under the absolute control of the governing Sandinista Front and the tiny parties that collaborate with it.
Civic and political leaders, former NGO workers, independent professionals, student and rural leaders, journalists, former diplomats, businessmen and political activists were also imprisoned. In addition, some suffered violence during their arrests, while others were simply abducted by plainclothes police or paramilitary.
Isolation, torture and fabricated crimes
More than 200 days after the first arrests of this new group of political prisoners, dozens of them remain locked in the cells of the infamous El Chipote prison complex in Managua. They’re being held there in isolation and are the victims of torture: four of the women political prisoners are held completely incommunicado in punishment cells. The rest only receive one hour of sunlight a week or every fifteen days. Some are in total darkness, while others are under bright lights 24 hours a day. Some are also submitted to interrogation sessions once or more times a day, and have had their court sessions conducted clandestinely, without their lawyers present.
In order to justify their imprisonment, the regime has fabricated crimes. In 2018 and 2019, the Ortega allegations were all supposed acts of “terrorism”, damage to public property”, or “vandalism”. However, in 2021 the Public Prosecution’s invented charges are “conspiracy”, “money laundering” and violations to the “Sovereignty Law” [passed in 2020], whose only reason and objective was to inhibit any political competition from the opposition for the November 7th electoral farce.
The fourth year of the campaign: “Christmas without political prisoners”
At the end of November, in an effort to sustain the demand for the immediate release of these political prisoners, their family members joined national and international organizations, echoed internationally, to launch the fourth yearly campaign for a “Christmas without political prisoners”.
Nonetheless, among the first 100 of the 167 political prisoners, there were those who are spending their first, second, third, or fourth Christmas without being able to be at home with their families. These include several prisoners who were reimprisoned following the unilateral amnesty the Ortega regime approved in June 2019.
On the eve of November 7th, the regime ordered the detention of an additional 27 Nicaraguans, among them professionals and activists, some of them retired. They were accused of violating the Special Cybercrimes Law, another of the laws passed by the Sandinista-dominated Nicaraguan Congress at the end of 2020 in order to justify their political persecution of citizens and members of the opposition.
“Let’s shout for those cells to open and the political prisoners to come out in this Christmas season, because they’re innocent people!” urged Maria Asuncion Moreno, an attorney specializing in Penal Law, at the launch of the campaign. Moreno, too, had to go into exile to avoid being imprisoned by the Ortega regime, after her name was mentioned on one of the opposition websites as a possible presidential candidate to replace the first presidential hopefuls who had already been incarcerated.
The demand for their freedom persists in the wake of the announcement of a new attempt at calling for dialogue on the part of Ortega, who may be planning to use the political prisoners as bargaining chips to exchange. However, the minimum requirement for any such effort is precisely the unconditional release of all of the regime’s political prisoners.