Yubrank Suazo: “I Was Born Three Times”

Yubrank Suazo. LA PRENSA/Archivo

Twice detained, he spent nine months deprived of liberty each time. Now he’s one of the banished former political prisoners

By La Prensa

HAVANA TIMES – Yubrank Suazo, a released political prisoner originally from Masaya, has been detained during two different periods of repression; each time, his imprisonment lasted nine months. He’s now one of the 222 political prisoners that Daniel Ortega loaded on a plane for the United States and banished on February 9, 2023. Given these events, his mother says he was born three times.

The young member of the Nicaraguan opposition recalls the days of his childhood as happy times, especially because he still conserves his friendships from preschool and grade school. He describes these friends as a family that has sustained him during his exile in the US.

Suazo is the youngest of three siblings and has close ties to his mother and father. Leaving Nicaragua has grieved him, mostly because he doesn’t know when he’ll be able to once more be together with his family.

Suazo was imprisoned for the second time on May 18, 2022, accused of “conspiracy to undermine the national sovereignty” and “spreading fake news.” The judge sentenced him to ten years in jail, and also imposed a hefty fine of just over US $1,500.

From medicine to psychology

After completing high school in Masaya, Yubrank Suazo opted to study medicine.  After a year, however, he discovered that medicine wasn’t his vocation, and he didn’t feel fulfilled by his choice. He then changed his career to a more humanistic field.

He entered the Central American University in Managua majoring in psychology. However, when he reached the fourth year of the five-year program, he had to pause that, too, for health reasons. When he tried to reenter the university in 2017, he encountered administrative problems that made it impossible. After that came the events of 2018, which put his career on hold completely.

Yubrank Suazo participated in and led peaceful protests against the Daniel Ortega regime, which started a wave of violence and persecution against opposition citizens. Photo: La Prensa

His political participation dates back to 2008, when he formed part of the Movement for Nicaragua, a civil society organization that denounced the violations to the Constitution that were occurring at that time. “From then on, I’ve been immersed in politics. When the events of 2018 exploded, I already understood and was familiar with the organizational structures. That facilitated our united efforts to demonstrate against what was happening,” he explained.

The young man became part of the April 19th movement, a group that was formed five days after the start of the massive peaceful resistance. His most noteworthy participation in the struggle involved actions carried out in the city of Masaya. 

In 2018, Suazo was accused of terrorism and sent to prison. He was freed on June 11, 2019, under the controversial Amnesty Law passed by the Ortega regime. Once released, he didn’t hesitate to become part of the Civic Alliance opposition platform and continue his activism for justice in Nicaragua.

Hidden sympathy from some prison officials

“Although the regime managed a frontal campaign of repression against the opposition, when you actually passed through these centers, a very curious thing happened. The high-ranking officials, along with some mid-range ones, were willing to make evident their discontent with the current system that prevails in Nicaragua. They left very clear their position – that they weren’t in favor of what was happening to us [political prisoners], and what they were trying to subject us to,” the former political prisoner stated.

During his second period in the penitentiary system, Yubrank Suazo found some differences. He explained that during his first period in jail, there was fanaticism on the part of the guards and other police authorities. But it was different this last period.

He asserted that the jail authorities didn’t hesitate to show their support. “They helped you by passing on certain types of information or managed to better the minimum conditions in the cell,” he commented.

These actions didn’t occur in the presence of the superior officers, when the guards would immediately change their attitudes.

Suazo was in the maximum-security prison wing known as El Infernillo [“Little Hell”]. There, he met an official who the common prisoners called El Maldito [“the evil one”]. Nonetheless, Yubrank ended up establishing a close relationship with him, and the official eventually revealed his humane side in different ways.

“He told me about his internal discomfort,” Suazo added. He clearly recalled one occasion when he got sick, and the guard couldn’t hide his concern for his state of health. “He came up to me and asked: ‘What’s going on?’ He calmed me down and said, ‘We’re going to help you.’ I remember that they were handing out breakfast, and he grabbed the plate that they served me and put it in my hands. He said: ‘Eat, even if just a little more. You have to be strong,’” the ex-political prisoner recalled.

The moment of banishment was heartbreaking

For Yubrank Suazo, the news that they were going to be “freed” was one of the most painful situations he had ever faced in his life. The former prisoner is firm in his conviction that his struggle must be waged together with his fellows, in his place of origin.

Yubrank Suazo and his father Wilfredo Suazo artisans from Masaya. Photo: Uriel Molina / La Prensa

When he arrived at Managua’s International Airport and understood that he was going to leave the country without being able to say goodbye to his family, Yubrank couldn’t control his sobbing. “I cried like a kid. When I managed to contact my dad, just after I got here to the United States, he was happier than I was. He was overcome with happiness, knowing that although I was far away, I was free. But I was crying from sadness. Knowing that I had left them, that some nine months had passed when I couldn’t embrace them,” he commented, his voice breaking.

This young Nicaraguan is still overwhelmed with doubts about whether he’ll be able to return to the country one day and reunite with his family. Before going up the stairs leading to the airplane, he bent down and kissed the ground – for him a symbol of the farewell kiss he couldn’t give his loved ones.

From his place of exile, Suazo has now reassumed an active role in the struggle, because he’s not going to offer any truce to the Ortega forces he declared. “I’m left with the need to process and accept my new reality, establish a short and medium plan for my life, without losing sight of the principal objective to reach, together with those who valiantly continue fighting for the freedom of our country,” he concluded.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times