The 100+ Nicaraguans Under City for Jail

Photo: Confidencial

By Ivannia Alvarez (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – The afternoon of May 3, 2023, turned confusing and terrifying for over a hundred citizens from 15 Nicaraguan departments. Pick-up trucks full of armed police – equipped like they were heading for a war – parked in front of their houses for a few seconds, then proceeded to force their way in with no legal warrants. It didn’t matter if there were children there, or sick elders. The police came in, turned over beds and rifled through closets and other furniture in search of “incriminating evidence.” Their searches met with no success, because all the victims were innocent.

When they couldn’t find any “evidence,” the police stole computers, cellphones, cash, personal documents including ID cards, passports, and even some items of clothing. Through intimidation or by force, they loaded the citizens they’d come for into the police cars and took them handcuffed at top speeds along the country’s dark highways. These victims were completely disconcerted – without knowing where they were being taken. They asked questions but received no reply. They imagined that a cell in the infamous El Chipote jail or La Modelo prison awaited them.

Those who were being transported from the Caribbean Coast and from Chinandega suffered the greatest mistreatment, waiting all night for the caravan of police patrol vehicles to all meet at some intersection.

The uncertainty grew as they ran into people they knew in the parking lot of the Managua Courts and realized that it had been a national raid. They felt accompanied, however, because for some reason or other, company during a bad time always comforts us.

That night, those detained were sent in groups, according to the department they came from, to appear before the judges complicit with the dictatorship. With Sandino’s portrait as witness, and Nicaragua’s blue and white flag flanked by the red and black flag of the governing Party, they listened to the list of bogus crimes they were accused of: cybercrimes, treason; undermining the national integrity. Those were the words they heard repeated over and over, with no right to defense.

Then, with no further explanation, they were obligated to sign a document. Minutes after signing, the judge informed them they’d been assigned to “mandatory periodic reporting.” Until a trial date was confirmed, they were ordered to appear at the closest police station every day at 7 am to sign in. Otherwise, they’d be taken to jail for contempt.

While this was going on, the social networks filled with denunciations and demands to free and respect the physical integrity of those who’d been abducted. From different point across the globe, Nicaraguan exiles clamored for the safety of their friends and relatives. No municipality across the country escaped the effects of the illegal round-up. The raids were repeated 10 days later, on May 13, 2023, from Bilwi to Villanueva, and on the distant isle of Ometepe, with the same procedures.

The life of over a hundred Nicaraguans changed in those ten days between May 2 – 13. Now, every day, come rain or thunder, be it Christmas or New Years, they must show up at their local police station at 6 am to sign, Effectively, this makes their town their jail.  Even though they arrive early, they’re made to wait; then an official guides them to the office where the book they must sign is kept. They take a full-body picture of them right there, and they’re allowed to go, with the warning: “we expect you back tomorrow.”

Over 365 days have passed; notebooks have filled and emptied. Among those affected by this “city detention” method, are women, men, members of the LGBTQ+ community, youth, and old people. Their lives revolve around that signature, that must be repeated every 24 hours. They can’t leave their municipality, and they must accept any and all calls or home visits from the officials in charge of their case. They’re under permanent watch.

Their neighbors prefer not to talk to them. They were fired from their jobs, under the argument that they weren’t complying with the established schedule. Those who had their own businesses stopped directly overseeing them. Even their close family members have distanced themselves, because no one wants to be seen as an “opponent of the regime.” Although many are just grateful to be at home and with a certain degree of mobility, and pity those who are in the dictatorship’s dungeons, it’s impossible for them to stop feeling a sense of being locked in, of living under a state of siege. Or to escape the psychological torture of each visit to the police station. As one of those abducted on May 3 expressed: “I feel like a coward for turning myself over to my tormentors by my own means every day, and not having the courage to flee.”

There aren’t good jails and bad ones – all jails are cruel and pitiless. There are also no half-freedoms. Because of that, I want these words to remind every one of those people who are resisting inside Nicaragua, that those of us who are outside will continue being their voice. I wish to let them know that I admire their integrity and their strength to resist from within; that their names – which today can’t be made public – will not be forgotten; that their city may be the place where things begin to change, because they’re examples of the yearning for freedom that walks the streets of Nicaragua.

Freedom for the political signers, freedom for the political prisoners in the jails and prison cells!

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.

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