“I’ve Been Told I Wouldn’t Recognize My Husband”

Victoria Cardenas, wife of Nicaraguan political prisoner Juan Sebastian Chamorro. Photo: Confidencial.

On Wednesday, Juan Sebastian Chamorro has been a year in prison and his wife regrets that she has not been allowed to even send him a letter.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – Victoria Cardenas remembers that a year ago today her house was raided by a large group of policemen who entered “in an extremely violent way” to kidnap her husband, Juan Sebastián Chamorro, then a presidential candidate. This Wednesday Felix Maradiaga, Violeta Granera and Jose Adan Aguerri have also been one year illegally imprisoned.

“It was a very traumatic moment,” she recalls. Both were getting ready to have dinner and started talking about a subpoena he would have on the following day, June 9, 2021, at the Prosecutor’s Office.

“I was not able to say goodbye, or even to see his face, because they disappeared him in a matter of seconds. Afterwards they stayed for four hours with me without knowing what was going to happen, but they searched my entire house,” she said

At that moment, Cardenas knew that she had to leave her home “as long as Juan Sebastián did not return” and made the decision to leave the country. From exile she has participated in dozens of forums, meetings and sit-ins to demand the freedom of her husband and all the political prisoners of the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.

This week she is in Los Angeles to participate in the forum: “Why are they prisoners? People imprisoned for political reasons in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela” organized by Race and Equality, a side-event of the Summit of the Americas. “My idea is to continue demanding freedom for my husband and all those who are unjustly locked up,” she insists.

In an interview for Esta Noche, Cardenas explains that Juan Sebastian asked the police for clemency. “He immediately kneeled, raised his arms, said that we were unarmed and to please, don’t do anything to me. Seconds later I saw him from the back, and could not even say goodbye,” she says.

Juan Sebastian Chamorro has been imprisoned for one year this June 8th. How many times has he had visits?

In one year, he has only received seven visits. Only his brothers and my nephew have been able to see him. So that is all the information I have about him, it is through them. It has been extremely difficult, in addition to the solitary confinement to which he has been subjected, first after his disappearance for three months and afterwards by long periods of isolation during which we know nothing about him.

The hardest part has also been for my daughter and me that we have not been allowed to have any contact with him in a year, not even a phone call, or a letter, absolutely nothing.

What is your husband’s current health condition?

I couldn’t tell you, since we have not heard from him for almost a month and a half and under those precarious conditions he is in, I could not tell you how he is. That is how I wake up every day, that is how I go to bed with that anguish, with that uncertainty of not knowing if he is well, if he is sick, of not knowing absolutely anything. After such a long time this begins to break you, it is the most difficult thing I have ever experienced in my life.

In these seven visits they had to describe Juan Sebastián to you. How do you imagine him physically?

Each visit has been different. I think the worst was after the three months of disappearance when they found him extremely thin, extremely weak. It was one of the hardest visits, but we were happy to at least know that he was alive and that he was in the El Chipote jail.

We also became aware of the very serious conditions under which political prisoners are held. We’ve been married for almost 24 years and my sister-in-law has told me that if I saw him enter the room right now, I would not recognize him. So that also frightens me because he is no longer the Juan Sebastian that I saw a year ago. I don’t know how he is; how can I tell you, under the extreme conditions he is in, which do not comply with the minimum conditions that a prison system should have.

The New York Times mentioned a meeting between the Government through Laureano Ortega and the United States, which was finally cancelled. Do you know anything about that?

The only thing I know is that my husband and the rest of the political prisoners are innocent and need to be free. They have been hostage and locked up for too long. That is my demand, and my cry is for freedom for all these people who do not need to continue suffering in those prisons. What I ask the international community, human rights defenders, businessmen and civil society to do is to support us because this is a humanitarian issue. This is not a political issue, these are people who are suffering, whose health deteriorates day by day and whose lives are in danger.

Lea más desde Nicaragua aquí en Havana Times