Jailed for Letting People Know About Covid-19 Vaccinations

Sentenced for a “Cybercrime” for making public the ability to get a vaccine in Honduras when the Ortega regime was still not recognizing the need

Esterling Soriano posted a photo of his vaccine card in 2021, showing he’d been vaccinated against Covid-19 in Honduras. That was the Prosecution’s proof of a cybercrime.

By 100% Noticias

HAVANA TIMES – On November 6, 2021, Esterlin Soriano’s life changed forever. Two police officers arrived at his home in Cinco Pinos, Chinandega, and asked for him. When his wife called him, he saw to his shock that the house was surrounded by riot police. They carried him away, and he was subsequently processed for cybercrimes. The evidence used against him was astonishing: a photo of the vaccination card he was given in Honduras.

[Editor’s Note: The Ortega-Murillo government was late to offer vaccines and never really took the pandemic seriously, while many thousands died. They also instructed doctors not to put Covid on the death certificates to keep the statistics low.]

“Two police came to my residence, dressed in light blue. They found my wife in the kitchen and asked for me. She, very agreeably, went out to our bathing area and told me they were asking for me. But imagine my surprise when I saw that the house was surrounded by police in black uniforms, holding high-power weapons,” he recalls.

Soriano became very nervous and alarmed. Nonetheless, he went to the living room, since he had no idea why they were “after him” in an operation involving some 15 police agents.

“I asked them pleasantly to sit down, but they replied: ‘you sit down, because we want to talk to you.’ When I sat down, one of the men in a black uniform seized me and that’s when they handcuffed my hands behind my back and grabbed me. They basically picked me up and carried me,” states Esterling Soriano. He’s a man who has suffered bouts of depression since 2018 and takes medication for it.

During the 24 days they held him in preventive custody in the cells of the Chinandega police, “they couldn’t figure out what to accuse me of, because first they said it was one thing, and then they told me it was another, until I finally went to the hearing. I arrived at the first hearing, then the second, still not knowing what I was accused of. I didn’t know anything until the third hearing, when they accused me of cybercrimes.”

“They accused me of promoting travel to Honduras to get vaccinated. I don’t even know why they considered that a crime, because a lot of people went there to get vaccinated, really. The vaccine was a donation of the Honduran Ministry of Health that they made available to everyone who lived in the border areas north of Chinandega. People went there voluntarily to get vaccinated,” he continued.

In fact, more than 35,000 Nicaraguans went voluntarily to Honduras to get vaccinated. “They accused me of being the promoter of that, but where could I have found enough money to pay transportation costs for all those people? There were some who came to the border areas from as far away as Managua and Leon, just to be able to travel there. I don’t think even Nicaragua’s big businessmen could finance that.”

“They mentioned that I promoted the idea of people going to Honduras, but the only thing I did was to post a photo on my Facebook page of my vaccination card from there, with a note thanking God and the authorities of the Honduran Health Ministry,” Soriano insisted.

He also recognizes that he was a member of the National Unity movement, as part of his citizen’s rights and responsibilities. “The Nicaraguan Constitution says that there’s freedom of expression and worship. I see that they still haven’t taken away that article. So, I have the freedom to decide what social organization I can be in.”

Awaiting family reunification

Today, Soriano is one of the 222 political prisoners who was released to the United States and banished from Nicaragua on February 9, 2023. He says he’s very grateful to the United States, which not only received the prisoners but is also providing them with medical attention, because many of them are suffering from serious health problems after their years in prison.

“Many of us arrived with health problems, I’m still in treatment for depression and high blood pressure. Also, there in jail, I developed a problem with my vision. I don’t see well with my left eye, and I’m receiving free medical attention for this,” he explained.

He added that he hopes the US will follow through with family reunification, “because we have our families there, and must trust in the Lord always, because He’s the one who’s protecting them there. So we’re also asking the [US] authorities to support us with this, because it’s tough to talk with your family only via a screen.”

Soriano has a child with a disability. Every time the boy sees him in a video call, he gestures with his hands for Soriano to come, because he wants him there at his side.

Soriano’s family members denied birth certificates

Mr. Esterlin Soriano affirms that his family has submitted the paperwork needed to get passports, but they’ve been denied that right.

“They asked for a copy of my 22-year-old son’s birth certificate, and they wouldn’t give it to them, because I no longer appear in the registry of the Supreme Electoral Council,” Soriano asserts.

The same thing has happened with the documents for his older daughter and his younger 8-year-old daughter. His wife had gone to the Immigration office twice, but they still haven’t responded to her passport request.

“On March 21, she went there and they told her there’s still no answer about the passport. Up until now, they just give her a phone number to call and ask for a reply. The same thing has happened with my other daughter,” he declared.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times