New Wave of Political Arrests in Nicaragua

Graffiti demanding freedom for the political prisoners. Photo: Carlos Herrera / Confidencial

Released prisoners and relatives of those still imprisoned demand concrete action from the opposition to achieve the freedom of the abducted protesters.

By Ana Lucia Cruz (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – “We don’t have any peace… every day we’re wondering when it will be one of our children’s turn,” stated Brenda Gutierrez, mother of a former political prisoner and a representative of the Committee for the Liberation of the Political Prisoners.

Gutierrez spoke during the seventh virtual forum on the abducted political activists in Nicaragua. She recalled that in the last months, the Ortega-Murillo regime has increased their persecution of the opposition, especially aimed at the released political prisoners.

In the last 48 hours, at least three released political prisoners were rearrested. Kenni Jose Vargas and William Balmaceda were freed hours after their illegal detention. However, Byron Aleman has been held since Friday morning, August 14th.

The Mechanism for Recognizing Political Prisoners, composed of relatives of political prisoners, released prisoners, human rights advocates, and civic organizations presented a report indicating that up through August 4th, ninety-nine opposition citizens have been abducted.

Is Ortega planning to use the prisoners in negotiations?

Activist Haydee Castillo, a member of the organization called “Nicaraguans in the World”, warned that the new wave of abductions of opposition members could be because the Ortega regime is preparing for a “negotiation” scenario.

“We have [information] that up until now we’re speaking about 99 prisoners, to which we’ll add one more who is now being held. The regime is once again taking prisoners, probably because they believe that a negotiation process is coming. We don’t know, but they’re once again filling the jails,” she warned.

Confronted with constant illegal detentions of opposition figures, the families of political prisoners and released prisoners urge the opposition to focus their efforts on the liberation of all the prisoners of the Ortega regime.

We won’t support elections without freedom

Karen Lacayo, a relative of political prisoner Edward Lacayo and a representative of the Association of Relatives of Political Prisoners, warned that as an organization “they don’t support” holding elections in 2021 “if there are political prisoners in the jail cells.”

In addition, she affirmed that they won’t allow the unlawful imprisonment of their relatives to be left in impunity; they’ll demand sanctions for the judges that unjustly sentenced them. In the same way, she urged the opposition to unite in actions such as flash protests, vigils, demonstrations at embassies and consuls, demanding freedom for all the political prisoners.

Lacayo recalled that the political prisoners continue sending out an S.O.S. because their lives are in danger. They’re denied food; family and conjugal visits are suspended; they suffer physical and psychological torture; they’re denied the entrance of medications; and many are suffering from chronic illnesses. These conditions have become worse with the possibility of becoming infected with COVID-19.

Christian Melendez, a representative of the Union of Political Prisoners, noted that in the last 24 hours they’ve documented the recapture of three of his former cellmates. He warned that this could continue “worsening” while the opposition still isn’t working on this collaboratively.

We know the pain of imprisonment

“It causes harsh feelings to know what’s happening [the rearrests], because we know well that pain (of being locked up). Our position is that we’ve had enough of this senseless infighting among people (in the opposition) who are trying to manipulate the struggle,” Melendez declared.

The Union of Political Prisoners also commented that they’re in agreement with the “not going to elections” strategy while demonstrators in prison, since they feel that participating under these conditions would just be giving oxygen to the Ortega regime. In addition, they affirmed that they’re working on a proposal for transitional justice that won’t leave out any of the victims of the Ortega-Murillo rule.

Rodrigo Navarrete, representing the Association of April Victims also demanded that the opposition in the Coalition “demonstrate” a true commitment to the victims, to the people who continue suffering in the country’s jails.

The demand was aimed especially at the Liberal Constitutionalist Party.  The members of the Association of April Victims insisted that they show their commitment by introducing bills that would permit the freedom of all the political prisoners.

“We’re not willing to wait for another government, so that they can go free,” warned the members of this association. They concluded this statement by repeating their demand: “Freedom for all the political prisoners.”