Zoilamérica Ortega: “No girl close to Daniel Ortega is out of harm’s reach”

Zoilamérica Ortega Murillo moved to Costa Rica because she feels “unprotected by the law, in view of the President’s impunity.”

By Judith Flores

Special for: Diario de las Américas

Zoilamerica DOA interview
“I wouldn’t be living in exile had I accepted a payoff,” said Zoilamérica Ortega Murillo, the stepdaughter of Daniel Ortega who was sexually abused for over a decade by the president.

HAVANA TIMES — Following news of the sexual abuse and rape charges brought against the country’s leader by Elvia Junieth Flores Castillo and Patricia Jeannette Ortega Prado, Zoilamérica Ortega Murillo, the adoptive daughter of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, decided to offer statements describing the sexual abuse she claims she suffered at the hands of the man who raised her and continues to be married to her mother, Rosario Murillo.

In this connection, the young woman, who lives in exile in Costa Rica, offered her opinion about the reasons that make Nicaraguan authorities remain silent before the accusations levelled at the nation’s president, after evidence implicating him in three acts of pederasty was presented.

In 1998, Zoilamérica accused her step-father of having sexually abused her since the age of 11, a crime Ortega was not tried for because the judge, Juana Mendez, a member of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), claimed charges had been presented beyond the established time limit.

Young Elvia Junieth and Patricia Jeannette were allegedly abused by the Nicaraguan President when they were 15 and 12, respectively.

Why do you believe nothing is said in Nicaragua about the accusations against Daniel Ortega?

It’s because of three factors. First, there’s a mentality that excuses the aggressor’s actions and blames the girls for provoking him, the idea that the victim “is drawn to power” or the “families stand to benefit from it.” They are helpless girls in a male chauvinistic society where the leader is seen as the one who was harassed and his actions are justified. Other factors are complicity and impunity. I believe that, in my case and those of these other girls, authorities negotiated with the victims of the crime. Something of this sort could have happened under the government of Arnoldo Aleman and Enrique Bolaños. The case of Patricia (Ortega Prado) was shelved by Ortega thanks to the support he had from the Sandinista party. This silence weighs on us today and reveals the system’s complicity in these matters.

Daniel Ortega, accused of molesting his adoptive daughter, Zoilamérica, and the girl’s mother, Rosario Murillo.

Thirdly, I think fear plays a key role. People who try to help the victims at one point or another find themselves isolated and vulnerable. Different organizations and institutions have also yielded to government harassment and the “leader” feels untouchable.

Do you believe Ortega had accomplices?

It’s been demonstrated he did. In the case I presented in 1998, I identified 9 people, to prove he didn’t act alone. There’s a man involved in all cases, Federico “Pitin” Lacayo (one of Ortega’s aids). Ortega’s personal security apparatus was also involved, as no one can see the aggressor before going through this group of agents.

Ortega’s personal aids play a key role in these crimes. At the time, it was “Pitin” Lacayo and Jorge Guerrero. In the case file, which wasn’t pursued because the judge claimed the time limit had expired, their complicity was shown.

What role did Lacayo play in your particular case?

They would phone me via “Pitin” Lacayo. He was the one who picked me up and was one of the select few who could go into the places Daniel Ortega uses to commit these crimes. He used the same mechanism with Junieth and probably did the same thing with Patricia.

The first thing you think about is this person’s cruelty, what Ortega is capable of doing to children, as I was when he molested me. In these girls’ accounts, I get a sense of how psychologically and emotionally damaging such abuse is for a girl. I am still shocked by it, despite the hard work I’ve done to recover, and I am aware of the impact that the aggressor’s cruelty had on hearing the girls describe their experiences in the hands of a predator who chose them as prey for his perverse actions.

I feel impotent in light of these facts. I am one of the accusers, and I’m living in exile. The other has been kidnapped, and the third has disappeared or is in hiding. These girls are living under immense pressure.

Do you believe other girls have been molested?

Without a doubt. The cases Diario Las Americas investigated took place in 2005 and 2006, we’re talking about a serial molester, there are other cases and, if we had confidential channels to accuse him and his accomplices, we’d know of many others.

What do think about your mother Rosario Murillo’s silence?

It’s complicity, it’s a power alliance that has no scruples. There’s a generalized inclination to tolerate these situations and help cover them up. As she is a woman and a mother, this suggests she is very cruel. If she was capable of covering up what happened to me, her blood, how could we expect her not to cover up what happened to the other girls? The worst off are these girls who, because of the power of that predator, Daniel Ortega, and the complicity and silence of Rosario Murillo, end up being blamed. This has a destructive effect on the victims. They use political power to trap and sexually abuse minors. No girl close to Daniel Ortega is out of harm’s reach.

What is your opinion regarding the silence surrounding the issue in Nicaragua?

Impunity makes these actions permissible. First, it makes people believe that they, the Ortega- Murillos, have unassailable power, that these facts won’t have any impact anywhere, that they won’t be anything other than newspaper articles. If they do not believe their power is at risk, they have no interest in responding to the accusations. It’s an act of arrogance.

Secondly, this is an open secret within the Sandinista party. It is known by many mayors and officials, they know this man preys on little girls. It’s shameful that these public servants should be keeping quiet when they themselves have daughters and families. He (Ortega) has gone after the daughters of some officials and they’ve kept quiet, they’ve preferred to disregard the abuse in order not to lose their power and financial status.

Why did you withdraw your accusations against Nicaragua before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission?

Patricia Ortega Prado’s case clearly illustrates the complicity here. There, you can see how political actors make decisions above the law. The Human Rights Commission and some governments that aren’t part of the organization subjected my case to political considerations. I spent almost ten years in court, seeing very clear evidence that the case wasn’t going to move forward, that it was being handled politically. Even the US Embassy in Nicaragua acted in the same way it did in Patricia’s case (they did nothing in light of the charges). At some points, I felt as though the courts were acting against me. It was a decision made at a time of an utter power imbalance and it put my life at risk. The aggressor had gone unpunished and was the president of Nicaragua. There wasn’t a single institution free from political pressure that would support me in my case.

There were rumors you reached an agreement with your mother, that money crossed hands, that you were even handling a number of family businesses.

I wouldn’t be living in exile had I accepted any payoff. I’ve also always said that, if anyone can prove I received any money, let them do it. I have nothing to hide, I have no bank accounts anywhere. The only property I own is in Nicaragua. I have never received any money, not from organizations, the government or individuals.

Do you believe Ortega will face justice one day?

We should stop considering that aggressor as someone who will enjoy impunity his whole life. There are mechanisms that will keep him from continuing with his predatory actions, legal mechanisms. I would like to call on organizations and foundations that address these issues to come to the aid of these families.

10 thoughts on “Zoilamérica Ortega: “No girl close to Daniel Ortega is out of harm’s reach”

  • Ortega was a pervert. What a news…

  • I would love to read it.

  • The book titled: “El Silencio del Patriarca” (The silence of the patriarch) includes the statements from 14 witnesses and also focuses on how Ortega, Murillo and the FSLN party reacted to the denunciation.
    However, I can’t force you to read it. They say ignorance is bliss.

  • I read Spanish, but I’m not interested in what the alleged victim has to say.

  • “I remember there was someone I went to for help, who suggested that I endure the cross of my entire life, that I should carry it with resignation. According to this person, it was my responsibility to watch over the image and stability of the statesman. Referring to it meant damaging the image of the leader and thereby seriously affecting the Revolution, which should be understood as the same thing,” the victim reported in her extensive testimony of 1998.
    If you can read Spanish I will send you a book on the case so you can better understand it.

  • There is no medical evidence indicating any of these so-called sexual assaults took place.

    Have you ever studied the Salem witch trials? Numerous people — primarily children (it’s always children) — accused approximately 150 people of witchcraft. Nineteen of those people were hanged, another (Giles Corey) was pressed to death, and others died in jail. Following your reasoning, because there were “dozens of witnesses” swearing the accused men and women were practitioners of witchcraft, then they must have, indeed, been witches.

    As for Ortega’s failure to deny the charges, perhaps his lawyers — realizing denying outlandish allegations often makes bad matters worse — advised him not to comment unless he was formally charged.

    Personally, I’ve always thought Rosario was mad. What other reason would a 20th century woman have for refusing to practice any method of birth control and producing child-after-child, instead of setting an example for the women of Nicaragua?

  • Dear Cal, the accusations could not be proven in court because Ortega refused to temporarily give up his parliamentary immunity and face the very serious charges like any respectful politician who actually thought he was innocent would do, and then, if acquitted, return to his post. The dozens of witnesses were never able to give legal testimony but many asked Ortega to admit to his crime. It’s important to note that he never denied the charges. His wife, the mother of the victim, was the one who defended her powerful husband. And by the way, that’s why she is where she is today, VP, and probably sooner rather than later, the next president of Nicaragua.

  • These accusations haven’t been proven. Many men have been falsely accused of sexual misconduct when they were 100 percent innocent. Just because there are multiple accusers does make the accusations true. Back in the ’80s, there were numerous cases in the United States in which men (and women) were accused of child molestation, Satanic worship, etc. by groups of lying children. Some of those people were convicted on nothing more than the false claims of such children, absent any physical evidence, and spent years in prison before they were finally cleared and released.

  • To me this case shows the moral bankruptcy of the pseudo left.

  • Daniel Ortega belongs in prison.

    Perhaps this is why Ortega dances to Havana’s tune: I believe Raul has evidence of these assaults collected by Cuban intelligence. Blackmail is an effective tool for advancing foreign policy.

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