The “Kidnapping” of Cristiana Chamorro in Nicaragua

Daniel Ortega’s Police deployed a massive operation to raid and impose house arrest against Cristiana Chamorro. Photo: Nayira Valenzuela.

Abogada defensora informa que régimen impide que la precandidata presidencial tenga comunicación con sus familiares y defensa legal

By Ivette Munguia (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Presidential candidate Cristiana Chamorro has been under house arrest, held incommunicado and under strong police surveillance, since June 2nd. It is “practically a kidnapping,” assures her defense lawyer, Orieta Benavides.

Meanwhile, the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) for precautionary measures in favor of the candidate due to the context of “special vulnerability” in which she is being held.

The CENIDH’s petition includes former employees of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCH): Walter Antonio Gomez Silva and Marcos Antonio Fletes Casco, who are under arrest and incommunicado since May 28. Also Erlinda Arróliga, Ana Elisa Martinez Jarquin, Cristiana Lacayo Chamorro, Lourdes Arroliga, Guillermo Jose Medrano and their relatives.

Cristiana Chamorro has been accused by the Prosecutor’s Office “for the crimes of abusive administration and misrepresentation, in concurrence with money, assets and capital goods laundering” through the closed FVBCH, of which she was president. Meanwhile, Gomez, former finance officer of the NGO, and Fletes, the accountant, are being investigated for the same crimes. Under a new law they can be held prisoner for 90 days without charges, it used to be 48 hours.

Speaking on the Confidencial Radio program broadcast by Radio Corporacion, attorney Benavides said that Chamorro was incommunicado in her own home, after it was raided by the Police on Wednesday afternoon. An “illegal” act that is practically a “kidnapping.”

“House arrest, as established in the legislation, is not what in reality is happening to Cristiana. She should not be incommunicado, should not be deprived of communicating with her relatives and defense. She should not have all communication cut and access to her home blocked. It is a situation that escapes legal aspects and turns it practically into a kidnapping,” Benavides expressed.

The lawyer specified that so far “there is no official order for a precautionary measure of house arrest.” The judicial file “is held under secrecy in the court offices, and not even as the defense have we been able to have access to it and, therefore, we do not know what that raid proceedings consisted of and if there is any measure” against the candidate.

Benavides said the investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office does not prove any wrongdoing against Chamorro or the former employees Marcos Fletes and Walter Gomez, who could spend up to 90 days in detention under investigation.

Although the legal situation of Gomez and Fletes is different from that of Chamorro, “what is common to both cases is that there is a complete violation of legal procedures and there is a broad discretionary power in the application and treatment that they are giving to each one of them,” the lawyer underlined.

Request for precautionary measures for former workers of the FVBCH

CENIDH reported to the IACHR that the investigation “has violated due process” and since May 20, 2021, when Chamorro, Gomez and Fletes were first summoned to the Ministry of the Interior (MIGOB), to answer for alleged inconsistencies found in financial reports, they were practically blamed in advance.

Proof of this violation of due process is that, on the night of May 28, the Police showed up at Gomez’s house “and without presenting the respective warrant from the competent authority raided the house and took him into custody.” Simultaneously, Fletes, who was in a safe home in Managua, “was kidnapped while leaving it by unidentified subjects. Both of their lives and personal integrity are in serious danger,” noted CENIDH.

The human rights defenders believe “it is clear that the investigation process is nothing more than a direct act to disqualify the candidature of Cristiana Chamorro. Such is alarming not only because it seriously damages the country’s democracy, but also because it places in serious danger others,” who since March of this year have been under intensive surveillance by the Police in their homes.

“Unsubstantiated Charges,” says the Carter Center

On June 1, the Fifth District Criminal Court disqualified the independent candidate from running for public office, just hours after the Prosecutor’s Office formalized the accusation against her and requested precautionary measures. A completely “illegal” act, claimed Orieta Benavides, Chamorro’s defense lawyer.

Benavides said her client continues “in full possession of her civil and political rights, as long as there is no final verdict that maintains her disqualification as such.” As long as that does not exist, “that impediment and any action against Cristiana is illegal because it would be far from any legal procedure.”

Meanwhile, the Carter Center condemned the violation of due process in the case against candidate Chamorro, who is being prosecuted “with unsubstantiated charges.”

Chamorro “was deprived of her right to compete for public office and she is being held incommunicado under house arrest. This is the latest attempt by the Government to manipulate the electoral process and represents a serious threat to the November elections,” pointed out the Carter Center.

Meanwhile, CENIDH’s petition emphasizes that in this case “it is clear that the procedure and detention happened for political reasons, and more seriously to prevent the political participation of Cristiana Chamorro as a presidential candidate.”

Read more from Nicaragua here.