Police, Social Network Posts Used to Frame Oscar Rene Vargas

El sociólogo y comentarista Oscar Rene Vargas

Its feared that he will suffer “hypothermia” locked in a punishment cell in El Chipote. The abduction of Oscar Rene Vargas took place on November 22nd.

By Octavio Enríquez (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – The testimony of two police officers and publications on social networks are the “evidence” that the Ortega regime will present against political prisoner Oscar Rene Vargas, kidnapped on the morning of Tuesday, November 22, and confined to a punishment cell at the infamous El Chipote jail.

The Prosecutor’s Office accused the 76-year-old sociologist one day after his arbitrary detention in Managua, which occurred while he was visiting his sister Patricia, who is in delicate health.

Although the charges were not initially made public, the authorities eventually accused the intellectual of the alleged catch-all crimes of “conspiracy to undermine national integrity” and “spreading fake news through information and communication technologies.”

These are the same crimes that the dictatorship has brought against other prisoners of conscience in a series of accusations that have been labeled as a “template” by human rights organizations, which have denounced that the dictatorship’s prosecutors only change the names of the defendants to formalize the judicial persecutions.

According to the document interchanging information and evidence, presented on December 9 by prosecutor Yubelca del Carmen Perez Alvarado to which Confidencial had access, the sociologist was also accused of “incitement to commit rebellion,” just as the Nicaraguan Center on Human Rights (CENIDH) had reported days before.

Vilma Nunez, president of CENIDH, warned then that it could be a strategy of the state to criminalize him and impose a heavier sentence. “Watch out that he may get 30 years, or I don’t know how many years. That is the intent,” explained the human rights defender.

The Managua court judge handling the case, Gloria Saavedra Corrales, has a history of judicial persecution against opponents of Ortega.

Before the regime turned Vargas into one of the 235 prisoners of conscience in Nicaragua, the sociologist frequently expressed his opinion on the country’s current situation both in independent media outlets as well as his blog. A site where at different times he analyzed the economic, social, and political situation, alternating his demand for democracy with denunciation of human rights abuses committed by Ortega.

During the 1980s, Vargas was an advisor to the National Directorate of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, one of whose members was Ortega, whom he met in 1967 when he rescued him from an operation carried out by the National Guard against Sandinista guerrillas in the Monsenor Lezcano neighborhood of Managua.

Prosecutor Perez Alvarado is one of the members of the judicial machinery that has repressed political prisoners. She was sanctioned last July by the United States. Her “evidence” brief further indicates that Vargas made comments on Facebook between June 12 and 18, 2021, and gave an interview on June 27 of that year to NTN24 television station.

The first lie: “captured in a public street”

The prosecutor endorses the testimony of the officer of search and capture team, Salvador de Jesus Chacon, who assured that he captured the political analyst in “the middle of a public street” to comply with an order that already “existed against the accused,” according to the document.

The prosecutor revealed that the one who issued the order on November 22 was Commissioner General Luis Alberto Perez Olivas, chief of the Directorate of Judicial Assistance (DAJ), sanctioned by the international community for human rights abuses, thus contradicting herself.

“He went to the place, confirming that the accused was there. The witness (Chacon) requested support from the officers of the Ajax Delgado Complex and in the company of five officers they managed to arrest the accused in a public street and transferred him to El Chipote,” said prosecutor Perez Alvarado.

This version contrasts with what was expressed by Vargas’ relatives, who denounced a violent action by the Police. His ex-wife, the poet Daisy Zamora, said, after the arrest, that the order was executed by “a regimen of hooded members of Ortega’s guards, with forced entry.”

Inspector Maria Palma Tellez will also be summoned to appear in court by the prosecution. And if she is not present, her boss, Commissioner Francisco Villareal Morales, “chief of the anti-narcotics department” can appear.

“Information technology experts” review social networks

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, Vargas was arrested with 2,161 dollars in bills of different denominations. His credit cards, his personal documents, and an information storage device with his name on it were confiscated. To assess the contents of the device, the Police used Inspector Francisco Antonio Gutierrez Valverde.

Gutierrez Valverde works in the Police Department of Information Technology Crimes, and his testimony will be incorporated as an “information technology expert.” But, “if he cannot appear in court,”  the Police has a substitute: Lieutenant Xavier Corea Martinez, “chief” of the aforementioned Department of Judicial Assistance and who supervised the “investigation.”

The report prepared by the Police mentions four specific comments by Vargas,: “El Poder o La Muerte” (Power or Death), published on June 12, 2021; “El reflujo social y la unidad” (Social reflow and unity) of June 15, 2021; a commentary on a publication of The Economist magazine and another commentary entitled “repression and negotiation” of June 18, 2021.

In the commentary “El Poder o La Muerte,” Vargas said textually: “Ortega and Murillo know (this verb was underlined in the prosecutor’s document) that they can lose power in transparent elections and be exposed to international justice, without the immunity provided by authoritarian power, that is why they consider remaining in power a life-or-death issue.”

According to Vargas’ analysis, the Ortega-Murillo’s use the Judiciary to persecute independent journalists, human rights defenders, and use the media under their control to try to sell the idea that they are defending themselves from a “foreign conspiracy.”

The other commentaries refer to the political, social, and economic crisis facing Nicaragua and explain, for example, in the case of the commentary titled “repression and negotiation” that the generalized repression with more arbitrary arrests has as an “objective to force a negotiation for fear of the potential increase of sanctions with the approval of the US Renacer law.”

Family confirms Oscar Rene Vargas’ poor prison conditions

The dictatorship authorized family visits to political prisoners last December 7 and 8. Vargas received his family visit on the first day.

The poet Rene Alberto Vargas Zamora, the sociologist’s son, expressed concern for the detainee’s health condition, who has a pacemaker and has lost between 6 to 10 pounds, as a source close to his family was able to confirm.

“The family’s cause of concern is that my father could suffer hypothermia, since he is in a punishment cell without a mattress and without a blanket, exposed to the wind, cold and the concrete floor. Additionally, he has a hernia in the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae and his back and knees are being affected by being subjected to these conditions,” said Vargas Zamora.

The source close to the family described when speaking about the sociologist: “He was struggling to get up, grimacing in pain because he sleeps on the cement, with a very thin mattress and they have him without a blanket, even though from the moment he was arrested I have taken the blanket daily, and they tell me that they can not receive it because it is not authorized.”

“The conditions in which they keep Oscar Rene are very precarious. It is an attempt against his physical, psychological, and moral integrity. Moreover, when Oscar Rene is a 76-year-old man, with hypertension, glaucoma, a pacemaker. He is an elderly man with a delicate health condition, who needs minimum human conditions to live,” the source added, asking to support a campaign to provide “a blanket and a mattress for Oscar Rene.”

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