“I Reached the Point of Asking Them to Kill Me”

The story of former Nicaraguan political prisoner Carlos Bonilla

Bonilla, 33 years old, was captured twice for protesting against the regime. He says that he cannot “assimilate” how he got out of prison alive.

By La Prensa

HAVANA TIMES – A little more than a month after being banished by the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, released political prisoner Carlos Bonilla still does not “assimilate” how he got out of jail alive after being tortured with blows until he was unconscious and also after they tried to suffocate him in water barrels and plastic bags. “I reached the point of asking them to kill me because I could not stand the torture,” he revealed.

“Physical torture heals with time, but psychological torture is what hurts you the most,” says the opposition leader, who was captured on two occasions for protesting against the regime. He says that he even thought that he would never get out of prison, since on the second occasion, when he was about to be released, they put drugs in his cell and sentenced him to 10 more years in prison.

Bonilla, 33, is part of the group of 222 political prisoners who were exiled to the United States on February 9. Now he is trying to start his life from scratch, hoping to be reunited with his family and his 13-year-old daughter.

In an interview with La Prensa, Bonilla asserts that “the regime has to be denounced, we must leave evidence of the abuses and violations.”

The first arrest

Bonilla participated in the roadblock located in the Laureano Mairena neighborhood of Managua, in the area of the Universidad Politecnica de Nicaragua (UPOLI), now the Universidad Nacional Politecnica, after it was confiscated.

The first time he was captured, on July 23, 2018, “after they dismantled the barricades, we were looking for a way out of the neighborhood because paramilitaries were looking for us. When I was leaving the neighborhood a car and a motorcycle intercepted me, at that moment I ran, I went into a house, and they took me out. They beat me so badly that I was knocked unconscious, when I woke up, I was in the El Chipote jail,” he recalled.

On that occasion, Bonilla said that the police officers in the service of the Ortega regime asked him “who was with me? Where were the weapons? Who were those people there (at the roadblock)? Who was financing you? Where were we getting the money from? And, when I did not answer or I told them I did not know what they were talking about, they beat me.”

“Even when I was on the ground, they hit me in the chest and took the air out of me, and a female officer heated an iron and brought it close to me and told me that she was going to burn me if I did not talk. They put my head in bags and in a barrel of water,” he added.

Torture was so hard, says Bonilla, that “I told them that it was better for them to kill me, because I could not stand it anymore. I threw myself on the ground, crying for them to kill me,” he stated.

The opposition leader recalls that he told police officers that his mother had died on May 10, 2018, so that “I no longer cared about anything.” “One of the police officers said ‘take him to his cell. This son of a bitch wants to be a martyr,” he added.

Since that day torture decreased. He was then indicted for aggravated murder and four attempted murder crimes and received a sentence of 90 years in prison. He was transferred to the maximum-security prison, Gallery 300, of the National Penitentiary System and then released on June 11, 2019, under the so-called Amnesty Law promoted by the Ortega regime.

First exile

After his first release from prison, Bonilla recalled that on June 16, 2019, together with a group of opponents and former prisoners, he went to mass at the Managua Cathedral.

“There the policemen were besieging and beat a friend. So, another friend and I went out and helped him enter the Cathedral, and they (the police officers) saw me and recognized me. After that, Jaime Navarrete (current political prisoner) was recaptured and we began to denounce and demand his release,” he said.

Opponent Carlos Bonilla, after his exile in Costa Rica. La Prensa /  Courtesy.

These protests triggered again the siege of his home. “The police began to besiege my house. Every day a patrol car would park in front of it. Motorcycles would arrive. So, I would denounce it and I found out that they were looking for a way to enter the house to get me out. And what I did was to flee,” he said.

The recapture

Bonilla went into exile in Costa Rica on September 6, 2019. However, he returned to the country on January 8, 2020, “because my daughter’s birthday was January 20, and I came to celebrate her birthday and then I was going to return to Costa Rica,” he explained.

But, two days before his daughter’s birthday, Bonilla was arrested again.

“On January 18, 2020, I was in a cab near the traffic lights of the Ivan Montenegro market, when some pickup trucks blocked us, some people wearing civilian clothes and masked got out, armed, surrounded the car. They got me out of the car and did not have handcuffs because they took off my shoelaces to tie my hands. The taxi driver was taken with me. He was put in another cell and I suppose that they released him (later). I was sent to a cell called “la chiquita” (the little one), a maximum-security cell,” he said.

Carlos Bonilla wears a red T-shirt, black shorts and a cap, and holds a mortar during the 2018 protests following state repression. La Prensa / Courtesy.

This second time Bonilla was taken to the new building at El Chipote. Although in the second capture he says that he was not subjected to physical torture, he did suffer psychological torture, interrogations in the early morning hours and solitary confinement.

“There were only interrogations. They would ask me why I had returned? What plans did we have? With whom I was reorganizing with? And I would tell them that I had returned for my daughter’s birthday, but they didn’t believe me,” he commented.

Bonilla was again transferred to the Tipitapa Penitentiary System and sentenced to one year in prison for the crime of illegal possession of weapons and given a fine. According to Bonilla’s complaint, his capture happened on January 18, 2020, but in the indictment the Prosecutor’s Office indicated that it was January 21, “because when my family and my lawyer went to ask for me, they didn’t tell them anything. I was as if I have been kidnapped,” he expressed.

He also noted that when he was sentenced to one year in prison, the release order established that it would be January 21, 2021, but “two days before my release letter arrived, the (prison) director Roberto Guevara put drugs in my cell, even although I was in a maximum-security cell and I was sentenced to 10 years for drug trafficking,” he denounced.


Bonilla, who had already experienced a first release from prison, explained that on the night of this past February 8, when guards of the La Modelo prison arrived to take him out of his cell and he saw that several political prisoners were being taken out, he knew that they would be released, but what he never imagined was that they would be expelled from the country.

“Warden Roberto Guevara himself told me to change my clothes. He handed me a change of clothes, because we were wearing blue uniforms, and the clothes fit me. I had already lived through the first release, so I knew that I was going free, I thought that they were going to hand us over to the International Red Cross or the Church, but never that they were going to send us out of the country, until we reached the Air Force. In fact, we were even thinking that they were going to send us to Cuba, Venezuela or Russia,” he related.

Carlos Bonilla after his arrival in the United States. La Prensa / Courtesy.

“Once already in the Air Force, they gave us a document that stated that we gave consent to fly, but not the destination. Finally, I was out of prison, so I signed it. And when we got off the bus, some gringo officials told us we were going to Washington. A month and some days later, I still can’t assimilate any of this, that’s the truth,” concluded Bonilla, who despite being far away from his family, says that now he talks often with them.

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