“I Want to Stay Alive to Hug My Dad Once More”

This plea from the daughter of the former Sandinista guerrilla Victor Hugo Tinoco, currently imprisoned by Daniel Ortega, has touched the heart of many Nicaraguans.

By Fabian Median Sanchez (Infobae)

Cristian Tinoco stands outside the “El Chipote” prison, seeking news of her father, who’s being held there by the Ortega regime. Courtesy photo

Cristian Tinoco has breast cancer, and her condition has worsened since her father was jailed. Her friends and relatives have started a campaign to pay for a possibly life-saving treatment.

HAVANA TIMES – Nicaragua first saw Cristian Tinoco’s face on the night of June 13, when her video begging for help began circulating through social media. “My father’s been abducted,” denounced a bald woman in a firm voice, who introduced herself as the daughter of the well-known former guerrilla leader Victor Hugo Tinoco. “My father fought at their side, so that Nicaragua would be liberated from a dictator. Now Daniel Ortega has become a dictator, and to me, he’s worse than Anastasio Somoza.”

Cristian Tinoco, 42, is an ophthalmologist. For ten years, she’s been battling breast cancer. Her sister, Arlen Tinoco, explains that six years ago the cancer spread to her lungs, and it recently appeared in her abdomen, pelvis and spinal column.

From the video recorded by Victor Hugo Tinoco before his detention.

Her father’s arbitrary imprisonment has caused Cristian’s health to worsen. “All this has affected her. The stress of my dad’s abduction has led to certain new complications for Cristian, such as ascites, an inflammation caused by liquid collecting in her peritoneal cavity. Her abdomen has had to be drained twice,” Arlen explains.

Victor Hugo Tinoco, 69, was a guerrilla fighter during the struggle against the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza Debayle. During the Sandinista government of the 80s, he served as Nicaragua’s Assistant Foreign Minister. He was expelled from the Sandinista Front in 2005, when he attempted to compete with Daniel Ortega for the party’s presidential nomination. He’s currently a member of the political group Unamos [Democratic Renewal Union], formerly the Sandinista Renewal Movement, or MRS.

Tinoco was imprisoned last month as part of a series of raids the Ortega regime carried out against opposition leaders between May 28 and June 5. Those jailed include three former Sandinista guerrilla leaders and six candidates who had declared their intention to run for president in the upcoming November elections.

“We haven’t had any news of our father. It’s now been over forty days since his imprisonment,” Arlen Tinoco states with anguish. “We know he’s there, but’s that’s all they’ll tell us. His lawyer hasn’t been able to see him. They’ve given us some prescription for medication, they’ve passed us some medical orders for an ankle brace, and we don’t know why. We’re not being informed about his health.”

The Nicaraguan police have justified the jailing of the former guerrilla as part of an investigation under charges of “treason”. This is a new crime established by the recently approved Law #1055. However, Arlen Tinoco believes that the real reason for his imprisonment is different.

Victor Hugo Tinoco served as Nicaragua’s Assistant Foreign Minister during the 1980s. Courtesy photo

“It’s because he maintains a position critical of the government, of this dictatorship, of all the injustices that have been committed against the Nicaraguan people. Since he’s always raised his voice, he continues to be an annoyance to them. Not only did they throw him out of the party, but now they put him in jail.”

“The illegal and arbitrary detention of my father has been a blow to my health. It’s horrible! Horrible!” Cristian Tinoco declares. “Every morning I wake up wondering how my dad is. Did he sleep on the floor? In a bed? Are they holding him in a dark cell? They won’t let anyone see him, neither us nor the lawyers. This has greatly affected my state of health.”

Poster for the fundraising campaign launched by friends and relatives to save Cristian Tinoco’s life.

Cristian says she fears for her own life and for that of her father. “I fear for my father’s life. I fear that one day the dictatorship will reveal that he’s dead, tell us that he died of COVID, or a heart attack. I also fear for my own life. I pray to God to just let me hug him once more.”

“The way I feel now, because of the chemotherapy, with so much pain in my body, I’d wish to die. But since my dad was taken prisoner, I don’t want to die anymore. I want to live, because I want to fight for his freedom. I just ask God to give me the strength and the grace to see my dad free, all the political prisoners free, and be able to hug them.” Those are the thoughts of Cristian Tinoco, who despite her pain can be seen outside the police delegation bringing food to her father and asking for news of him.

Arlen Tinoco explains that her sister has had four different chemotherapy treatments, but that they “haven’t had the desired results”. She fears the worst. Private oncologists who attend her have suggested an alternative treatment that’s completely beyond the Tinoco family’s means. “It costs over six thousand dollars a month,” Arlen says.

Relatives and friends launched a solidarity campaign this month. Arlen say it’s “like a yell for help, for a treatment that could save Cristian’s life.” The goal is fifty thousand dollars for the treatment, the medications, and other expenses for Cristian, who lost her income due to her state of health. Although they still haven’t raised all the money needed, Arlen says she’s been surprised by the support and solidarity they’ve received.