A Dissident Nicaraguan Family Reunites in the USA

Former political prisoner Carlos Valle was able to reunite with his daughter Elsa, who had also been a political prisoner, and with his wife and grandson in the United States. Courtesy photo / La Prensa

After Carlos Valle became one of the 222 political prisoners stripped of their nationality & banished to the US, his family was finally reunited

By La Prensa

HAVANA TIMES – At approximately four AM on February 9, former political prisoner Elsa Valle received a call from a family friend to inform her that a group of political prisoners in Nicaragua were being released. The group included Elsa’s father, Carlos Valle, who had been rearrested in the wake of the Nicaraguan electoral farce of November 6, 2022.

By that time, Elsa, together with her mother Rebecca Montenegro, her sister, and her 3-month-old son Leandro, had emigrated to the United States.

“I was in California when I received the call. We screamed, jumped up and down, cried with joy and began calling our contacts, who all responded positively,” Elsa recalls.

Once the Ortega regime formally announced the release of the 222 prisoners – who were put on a plane to the United States, and subsequently stripped of their Nicaraguan nationality – Elsa desperately began searching through the list for her father’s name. She finally found it – number 219.

Carlos Valle previously spent six months in prison for demanding the release of his daughter Elsa. Photo from archives / La Prensa

“I couldn’t find him, because his name was near the very end. When we saw it, it was a total relief, because we were alone in this country, we’d had no news of him, and we didn’t know if we’d ever see him again. It was like a huge weight coming off our shoulders,” expressed the young dissenent, who was in a California shelter with her mother and son.

The exiles’ arrival in Washington

The group of 222 released political prisoners from different Nicaraguan prisons were all put aboard a special flight to the United States via Omni Air International. The plane left Managua at 6:31 am and arrived at Dulles Airport in Washington DC at 11:33 local time – 10:33 am in Managua.

Elsa couldn’t go to receive her father, because she didn’t have the money to fly from California to Washington. Nonetheless “I was following everything the whole time, calling my contacts. When the airplane landed with the banished prisoners, I made a video call to another political prisoner [who was on the same flight] and he passed the phone to my dad. We talked, crying with joy. It was a Boom! – very sudden, but super-joyful – because we’d be together again, and he was okay, safe and sound,” she added.

Carlos Valle later traveled to California to reunite with his family, and they’re currently residing in Florida.

They stole almost 2 thousand dollars from him

Carlos Valle was arrested anew on November 5, 2022, after saying goodbye to his family at the Managua bus terminal. They had just left on a bus to Honduras to begin their trek towards the United States.

He was detained with no judicial order, and his whereabouts remained unknown for at least a month. Valle had been detained on two earlier occasions: in September 2018, he was arrested for demanding Elsa’s freedom; and in October of 2019, he’d been detained for supposedly colliding with a police officer.

“[This last time] I believe the police had [my cellphone] bugged. The bus left Managua at 3 am, so I called Elsa at 7, calculating the time it would take for them to reach the border [with Honduras, at Guasaule]. She answered and told me: ‘We just crossed the border.’ I took a deep breath. I felt at ease, since I had a visa and was planning to go see them in a month,” Valle recounted.

Carlos Valle, father of former political prisoner Elsa Valle, at the moment the Ortega Police officially exhibited him as a prisoner. Photo taken from government website “El 19 digital.”

After speaking with Elsa, Carlos went to sleep. “Not even a half-hour later, I heard the dogs barking. When I got up to see what was going on, I saw the patrol cars outside, and the police looking for a way to open the gate and get in. So, I put on a pair of shorts and a tee-shirt. As soon as I emerged, they handcuffed me,” he recalled.

Valle says of the Police: “the first thing they look for when they grab you are cellphones, but when I got up to change – because I’d laid down in my boxers – I tucked the telephone and my wallet up behind the ceiling tiles. But they didn’t even ask me about them. That’s because, as I discovered later, they’d taken 68 thousand cordobas [US $1,858] that I had in an envelope. That was money I was going to send to Elsa when they reached Mexico, to pay for the trip. [I was holding on to it] because it was dangerous for them to travel with that amount of money,” he said.

Taken to the infamous El Chipote jail

That same day, Carlos stated, he was taken to a cell at the infamous El Chipote jail. “There they didn’t tell me or ask me anything. They put me in at cell in the preventive wing, and I spent the whole day there. At night, they moved me to a punishment cell with another political prisoner, Javier Alvarez, who had problems with both his sight and his hearing, and was in total isolation,” Valle continued.

A month after being jailed, he was transferred to cell 18, “where I was with a Wilberto Artola, a journalist from the Matagalpa Catholic Diocese, also being held in isolation without the right to speak.”

Although he didn’t’ suffer physical torture, Carlos denounced the psychological and verbal mistreatment. “I spent a month in a cell with the lights on for 24 hours a day, and another month with the lights turned off,” he expressed.

From banishment to family reunion

Like the other ex-political prisoners, Valle never imagined they’d be released in this way, although beginning in December 2022, the situation and the treatment they received in jail had been changing – the food improved, and they were allowed out to receive sunlight for four hours each day.

“On February 8, one day before [the release], an official came with some clothing and shoes and asked if they were mine. I told him they were, and he said: ‘Take off your uniform and put these clothes on.’ I thought that we were going to be pardoned, although some of us also thought that maybe they were going to take us to the La Modelo penitentiary. Later, when the Navy arrived and gave us the document to sign, our authorization to leave the country. I signed, and when that plane took off, I felt free,” Valle declared.

At that time, Valle still didn’t have any information about his family, except that they had arrived in the United States after a lot of suffering and difficulties on the journey.

“When I arrived in Washington, I found out they were in a shelter. I went to Miami, because I had spent six years in exile there in the eighties. I made some contacts and prepared the way to bring my family there. A friend in California helped me out economically, along with a Protestant church they belong to, and an organization that’s giving support to the banished,” Valle stated with gratitude.

His reunion with his family and Elsa’s son – his grandson, who he sees as a son – “was amazing,” Valle stressed. He now has his work permit, valid for two years.

Carlos Valle and his grandson Leandro. Courtesy photo / La Prensa

“The important thing is that we’re together, in a country where we can breath easy, move around, and go out, without fearing they’re going to come in the night, or they’re going to take my Dad, or me. So, we’ve felt an immense peace and tranquility,” Elsa added.

The Valle Montenegro family is requesting political asylum in the United States, Meanwhile, they’re happy to be together again, even though they must begin all over from zero. Still, they assured, “As soon as there’s a change in government, we’ll go back to Nicaragua.”

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times

Comments are closed.