Costa Rican activist Byron Ortiz speaks of his 48 hour detention in Nicaragua
By Wilfredo Miranda Aburto (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – Byron Ortiz, a Costa Rican indigenous activist, was detained last Saturday in La Fonseca, Nueva Guinea, Nicaragua. Ortiz stated later that during the 48 hours of his and five colleagues’ disappearance, they were locked in a “very unsanitary room” in the central office of Immigration in Managua. The authorities never explained to them why they had been held.
Ortiz was giving a workshop on “alternative technology”, focused on the construction of efficient ovens, together with five other activists – three Mexicans, a Spaniard and an Argentine –all from the Mesoamerican Caravan. The workshop was being offered in La Fonseca to members of the rural anti-canal movement.
On Saturday, Ortiz informed us via telephone, the Police took them from La Fonseca to the police station in Nueva Guinea where they were interrogated. “But the interrogation didn’t end there, because through a police operation that took us by surprise, they transported us to Managua,” he stated.
The activists were told that in Managua there’d be only a few “quick questions”. Nevertheless, they never imagined that they’d be held there incommunicado for over 48 hours with no contact with their embassies or their family members and without knowing the reason for their detention.
The young people were taken to Immigration headquarters where they were interrogated on repeated occasions. “What organization was financing them?” and “What information did they have about the Canal?” were the main questions raised by the immigration officials.
“They intimidated us with their declarations, but they didn’t touch us. We told them that no one financed us because we were self-sustaining,” Ortiz recalled. But the officials’ insistence reached the point of threats: “If you don’t talk, we’ll take you somewhere where you’ll have a very bad time,” Ortiz, of indigenous origin, added.
The five male activists were separated from Ana Laura Rodríguez, of Argentina and the only woman in the group. She was held in a different room from the young men who assured us that theirs was “pretty unsanitary”, and that they had to clean it.
They arrived at the Immigration offices on Saturday night, but weren’t given any food until Sunday morning. “We were in something like a very dirty shelter, and we requested some articles of personal hygiene,” Ortiz declared.
Although the activists demanded to know the reason for their detention, the Immigration authorities never gave any. They even urged them to sign a paper with the space giving the reason for their detention left blank.
“We refused to sign the documents, because we didn’t know why we were detained. Neither the National Police nor Immigration ever told us anything,” Ortiz maintained, while waiting on Monday to be transported with Rodríguez to San José, Costa Rica where they would receive attention.
Released and taken to the border
Around 3:30 in the afternoon, the Immigration officials loaded the Mexicans into one van. Later, Ortiz and Rodríguez were put in a pick-up truck that traveled with an escort of four police and four immigration officials.
“Where are you taking us?” we asked them, and they responded that we’d find out when we arrived. When we recognized the road, we discovered that they were taking us to the border. They were acting with a kind of urgency to get us out,” Ortiz recalled.
The only belongings that were delivered over to them were their passports. The Nicaraguan officials handed them over to the Costa Rican immigration officials and then immediately disappeared.
“It’s a complete abuse of authority, because we don’t know why they detained us, and we were never formally accused of anything… Nicaragua is a beautiful country, but the authorities are causing it great harm,” Ortiz stated regretfully.
By this time the Mexicans were in the Mexican embassy in Honduras, according to information provided by family members.
Read this statement from the Mesoamerican Caravan organization on Wednesday.