Free the Political Prisoners and Suspend the Police State

FREEDOM FOR ALL OF THE POLITICAL PRISONERS! It’s not hard to obtain unity when it is done from equality.

By Carlos F. Chamorro (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Moved by pain and desperation over the physical and emotional deterioration of the political prisoners, Nicaraguans have launched a new national demand for the freedom of these 170 prisoners of conscience. The demand includes the nullification of the political trials against them, in order to preserve all their rights and constitutional guarantees.

The regime’s only response has been to schedule more political trials in the Chipote jail complex, where trials of twelve prisoners of conscience are now pending in the coming days. Among these prisoners are: Yader Parajón, Yaser Muhammad Vado, Ana Margarita Vijil, Dora María Téllez, Miguel Mendoza, José Antonio Peraza, Suyen Barahona, Miguel Mora, Noel Vidaurre, María Oviedo, Irving Larios, and Freddy Navas.

On January 17, Donald Margarito Alvarenga was declared guilty in Chinandega. Alvarenga is a former Sandinista combatant who fought against the Somoza dictatorship and worked in the Interior Ministry during the 80s. He’s the first political prisoner to be tried under Ortega-Murillo regime’s so-called “Cybercrimes Law” and “Defense of Sovereignty Law” passed at the end of 2020.

Alvarenga was accused of the fabricated crimes of subversion and inciting hatred and violence, based on criticisms of the regime he expressed on Facebook and WhatsApp. The witnesses presenting “evidence” and testifying against him in the trial were the same seven police agents who originally spied on him and eventually abducted him. The trial, presided over by Judge Rosa Velia Baca, was held in a single one-day marathon session, lasting for 13 hours. Five days later, the judge issued a verdict of guilty and sentenced Alvarenga to seven and a half years in jail. Twenty-four hours later, the judge corrected her sentence; however, instead of recognizing and repairing the trial’s legal aberrations, the “correction” was an increase in the sentence – to 12 years in jail.

Such are the “trials” with which the regime attempts to legalize prison sentences for all the prisoners of conscience. These aren’t real trials, with a right to defense, and conducted by an autonomous Judicial Power guided by the Rule of Law. They’re nothing more than a despotic procedure of “order and obey”, in order to carry out political vengeance. They are trials decided and discreetly executed from the presidential bunker in El Carmen.

Among Ortega’s and Murillo’s 170 political prisoners are men and woman of all ages, and from all parts of the country. There are former presidential hopefuls and civic leaders; political leaders of rightist, centrist and leftist parties. The majority, though, are citizens unaffiliated with any political party: farm leaders and student leaders; intellectuals, diplomats and former members of the military; owners of productive companies, bankers, and trade union leaders; journalists and human rights advocates.  They represent a cross section of the Nicaraguan population, and embody the plurality and national unity of the blue and white Nicaragua that continues resisting and demanding democratic change. The totalitarian project of Ortega and Murillo haven’t been able to squash this force.

The 170 political prisoners are all innocent. They haven’t committed any crime, and their only sin is having protested during the civic rebellion, demanding justice and democracy, and aspiring to lead the clamor for free elections for all Nicaraguans – a demand that was forcibly violated on November 7th.

Opinion polls have reflected the national clamor of this great majority. They’re not asking for a pardon or an amnesty, but for the unconditional release of all the political prisoners, the annulment of their trials, and the suspension of the police state.

During the second national dialogue in 2019, the government committed itself to freeing all the political prisoners. However, Ortega only partially fulfilled that agreement, by decreeing a self-amnesty while maintaining over a hundred prisoners of conscience in jail. These prisoners were never freed under that amnesty.

In addition, on March 29, 2019, the official delegation headed by Foreign Minister Denis Moncada signed an “Agreement to strengthen citizens’ rights and guarantees”. In doing so, the regime assumed a commitment to lift the de facto state of siege and restore all the constitutional guarantees. The government never kept that agreement, and the representatives from the Vatican and the Organization of American States who acted as international witnesses in the negotiation also failed in their obligation to guarantee its implementation.

Instead, Ortega reinforced the police state, passing new repressive laws at the end of 2020 and unleashing a fresh wave of repression and imprisonments, until the 2021 electoral process had been totally annihilated.

Hence, to speak of an eventual “dialogue” with the government with no preconditions, as the Superior Council of Private Business (COSEP) suggests, or to impose an economic monologue without freeing the prisoners or lifting the police state, as the government has announced, won’t bring the country any hope of peace.  

In order to return hope to the country, first of all we need to join forces and exert maximum pressure, nationally and internationally, in order to demand and achieve the freedom of all the political prisoners, the annulment of their trials and the suspension of the police state. That’s the starting point for a humanitarian solution that frees the prisoners of conscience and their families from suffering, and also for seeking a political solution to the national crisis.

The way out begins by recovering our basic liberties, in order to knock down the walls of this huge national jail. It’s a jail in which all Nicaraguans are being held hostage, including the public employees, both civilian and military, and the tens of thousands of exiles. We must first do this, in order to gather all the living forces of the country – without the jailers – and forge a national solution via free elections.

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