Nicaraguan Radio Owner: “Why Such Rage Against Me?”

Anibal Toruño at his radio station, after it was set afire in 2018. File photo: Oscar Navarrete/ LA PRENSA.

In the last five years, Toruño has suffered persecution, exile, the cancellation of his radio station’s license, closure of his bank accounts, and the theft of his properties.

By La Prensa

HAVANA TIMES – On March 27, workers presumed to be from the Leon City Hall arrived at the site of the veteran radio station Radio Dario and began construction work. That’s the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship’s latest assault in a series they’ve unleashed since 2018 against the station’s exiled owner, Anibal Toruño.

Radio Dario has a long history of informing listeners across Nicaragua’s western region. During its 70 years of existence, it has survived the Somoza dictatorship, the Sandinista regime of the eighties, and it still continues “beating the censorship” of the current Ortega-Murillo regime.

In the last five years, following the social explosion that marked the country’s socio-political crisis, Toruño has suffered persecution, threats that drove him into exile, the cancellation of his station’s permission to broadcast from frequency 89.3 on the radio dial, the closure of his bank accounts, and the theft of his properties.

In Toruño’s own view: “[Ortega] has a fatal attraction to me, or maybe he doesn’t like my style, my activity, my perseverance.” Perhaps that’s the reason, the director speculates, that he’s torn apart the radio and Toruño’s own family.

Nonetheless, the journalist continues: “there’s no relation between the media I direct and any motive for such an attack (..) I believe it has to do with my personality, maybe because I have a high degree of leadership.” He added: “I ask myself why they’ve shown so much malice against me.”

Escalation of the regime’s fury

Between 7 and 7:20 pm on April 20, 2018, a group of at least 12 Ortega followers, all wearing hoods and carrying gallon containers of gasoline, broke into Radio Dario. At that point in time, the station had been broadcasting for 69 years.  Two days previous to the attack, large-scale citizen protests had broken out against the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega.

In the station’s cabin was a group of 12 workers, Toruño among them. They heard an explosion, and flames immediately spread through the building, as a result of the quantity of incendiary liquid that had been poured around the installations.

Luckily, there was a door in the studio that connected to the neighboring house, belonging to the family of Juan Toruño, deceased founder of the radio and Anibal Toruño’s father. The door was nailed shut, but among all those present they were able to break it down in order to survive.

“When he [Ortega] decided to stage that attack in 2018, the intention was to kill me. That’s absolutely certain. It’s something the Sandinista Front does against those who at some moment cross it. That’s the story, and even though they lost out with me, I believe that’s what made them attempt the assassination that they weren’t able to finalize,” Toruño declared.

After that fatal date, those who work at the station, like Toruño himself, left the country, after suffering threats and intimidation from the Leon Police. The repression in Leon, a university city, was headed by Commissioner Fidel Dominguez, accused of ordering and directing illegal raids on the home of Toruño’s relatives, and on the radio’s journalists.

The director of Radio Dario left the country in August of 2018, and spent more than a year in exile. He returned in 2019, but in 2021 once more found himself forced to flee the country for exile, due to a resurgence of the same police harassment tactics. During the first six days of January of that year, his family’s house in Leon was raided and searched on three occasions. As of March 24, 2023, the property has been confiscated in a de facto operation.

A history of confronting censorship

Founded in 1949, Radio Dario will celebrate 74 years in 2023. “This station has gone through many years and has confronted censorship before. That’s what led my father, a defender of freedom of expression, to go into exile during the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza Garcia,” Toruño recalled.

He added that the radio has gone through six periods of destruction. “We went through the 80s very happy with the Nicaraguan revolution, because it had overturned a dictatorship, not knowing that one of them [the revolutionary leaders], Daniel Ortega, would follow in the footsteps of that dynasty. During the presidential term of Violeta Barrios de Chamorro in the 90s, there were some violent protests, and these caused three destructive attempts on the station,” he added.

“Radio Dario continues,” Toruño insisted, adding, “we represent some of the things they haven’t been able to defeat – capacity and talent.”

“Today, the radio we all know has become more of an audiovisual medium, and that has allowed us to grow greatly. We’re now Dario Media – that is, we now have a web page and also Dario TV. We’re in the process of bringing the station back, but online. So, it’s an opportunity to be able to return. That’s one of Daniel Ortega’s great defeats, like the defeats he’s received from other media and from the journalists who continue showing him with great enthusiasm that censorship isn’t possible. We’ve defeated censorship in that sense,” the radio station’s director concluded.

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