Nicaragua Now Has Over 140 Political Prisoners

Teacher Pedro Alfonso Morales and journalist Orlando Chávez Esquivel.  Photo/Social Media

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – Writer and teacher Pedro Alfonso Morales, journalist Orlando Chavez Esquivel, and his siblings Obed and Merary Cháaez were kidnapped by the National Police in the department of Leon, in the western part of the country, bringing the number of political prisoners in Nicaragua to over 140.

The illegal detention of the four residents of Leon, carried out on Sunday, May 19, 2024, was denounced by the platform Alertas Libertad de Prensa Nicaragua and local media outlets.

Alertas Libertad wrote “we demand the immediate release of the Chavez Esquivel brothers. Enough of the persecution,” on their social network.

According to Alertas Libertad, the journalist’s siblings were arrested for opposing the kidnapping of their brother. Orlando Chavez is the director of the news program “El Metropolitano,” a politically neutral radio show broadcast on Radio La Cariñosa of Leon.

Local media details that the police came looking for Chavez on Sunday afternoon and did not find him. They returned at night, and the police officers, without a warrant, raided the house.

In the case of Pedro Alfonso Morales, a Language and Literature teacher, he was kidnapped while at his home in the municipality of Telica, Leon.

Posts by journalists and local media indicate that National Police agents took him away with “violence.” The teacher is considered by locals as “a man who has contributed much to the history of the municipality,” said a neighbor.

Morales is a historian, writer, essayist, and poet. He was a professor at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN-León) and a member of the Leon Club of Poets and Writers.

On the writer’s personal Facebook profile, presentations of his books and literary works are highlighted, such as the latest titled: “Vanguard Poets of León.”

Systematic Policy of Repression

Although the reasons for the kidnappings are unknown, the Human Rights Collective Nicaragua Nunca+ recalled that in April 2024, the journalist and teacher coincided at the presentation in Leon of the book “Los brujos y sus prodigios” by writer Guillermo Rothschuh Villanueva, who was recently banned by the police from presenting his book in Juigalpa, Chontales.

“In a context of increasing harassment against citizens, these incidents are not isolated but part of a systematic policy of repression by the Ortega-Murillo regime to silence critical voices,” the Collective stressed in a statement published on Facebook.

The organization stated that the repression and intimidation against rights defenders, artists, journalists, and writers, “constitutes a deliberate strategy by the Ortega-Murillo regime to sow fear and control the public narrative, preventing the truth about the situation in Nicaragua from coming to light.”

The number of Political Prisoners rose again in April

The latest report from the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners counted that as of April 15, 2024, the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship held 138 people as political prisoners.

The list is divided into 23 women and 115 men, including ten prisoners jailed before the period of protests and civic demonstrations in 2018.

The political prisoners are held in seven prisons across the country, although 111 of them are in the Jorge Navarro National Penitentiary System, better known as La Modelo.

During the reporting period—from February 1 to April 15—the Mechanism recorded twelve cases of arbitrary detentions for political reasons, of which “seven have been released,” while the whereabouts of the other five “have not yet been confirmed and remain under investigation.”

Between March and April 2024, the Mechanism observed an “increase in mistreatment of political prisoners, with systematic violations of their rights.

“These include beatings, sleep deprivation, threats, and humiliations. These practices aim to intimidate and silence the political opposition, creating a climate of fear and repression throughout the country,” the report stressed.

Activists, Students, and Deputies

Among the list of political prisoners are student leader Jasson Noel Salazar Rugama; former political prisoners Olesia Muñoz and Anielka García; journalist Víctor Ticay; and former political prisoner Abdul Montoya, detained in April 2023.

The Mechanism revealed that most of them have sentences ranging from eight to ten years in prison for the alleged crime of “spreading false news.”

The list also includes the university students captured in August 2023: Adela Espinoza Tercero, Gabriela Morales, Mayela Campos Silva, and sociologist and activist Melba Damaris Hernández, former political prisoner Juan Carlos Baquedano, captured on the third day after his return from exile in Mexico.

Additionally, Yatama deputy Brooklyn Rivera was kidnapped on September 29 in a raid in Bilwi, Puerto Cabezas, and his substitute, Nancy Henriquez, was detained on October 1 under the pretext of being interviewed about Rivera’s case.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.