The Dawn of a Free Nicaragua

A Nicaraguan celebrates in San Jose, Costa Rica, the release of 222 political prisoners of the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.   Photo: EFE/ Jeffrey Arguedas.

Every dictatorship is strong a second before it falls and beyond negotiations, it is up to Nicaraguans to take full responsibility for their own destiny.

By Marco Aurelio Pena (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – On February 9, the news that 222 Nicaraguan political prisoners had been released and expatriated by plane to Washington, D.C., took us by surprise. In their homeland, the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship ordered a hoax of justice to rush to read a “deportation order” as a sad theatrical representation of a completely servile and depraved judiciary.

Nothing else can be expected when the courts have been turned into dens of hoodlums where the innocent are condemned by the perpetrators. In a single decision and by a single criminal appeals court, more than 200 cases were ruled that were in different procedural stages and were being heard by different judicial bodies.

According to the Pan-Hispanic Dictionary of Legal Spanish, deportation is the “return of a foreigner to his country of origin after the denial of asylum or as a consequence of his expulsion.” It is therefore an extreme legal aberration for a country to deport its own nationals. In fact, just as they were unjustly imprisoned, our countrymen have been expelled from their country de facto.

In a second act of this tasteless theatre piece, the caricature of parliament, well-trained and diligent, voted in record time to reform Article 21 of the Nicaraguan Constitution and a law considering the loss of nationality for “treason.” In other words, they have schemed that any citizen unlawfully sentenced under the infamous Law No. 1055 or Law for the Defense of the Rights of the People to Independence, Sovereignty and Self-Determination for Peace, will arbitrarily lose his or her Nicaraguan nationality.

In the framework of Criminal Law, the application of a sentence (imprisonment, banishment, etc.) requires a previous law and a previous criminal type. Additionally, as a general principle of law, the law does not have retroactive effect, except when it favors the defendant. Evidently, expatriation of released political prisoners adds more arbitrariness, illegalities, and injustices to those already observed in their bogus trials and sentences outside the law that expose a failed state.

The whims, passions and miseries of the delirious ruling couple is the “Personal Rule” that was imposed to the detriment of the “Rule of Law.” So that the state-party degenerated into a state-family that keeps the country in a permanent state of exception —as the jurist Carl Schmitt theorized— and instrumentalizes formal law for the persecution of its political adversaries, whom it considers “public enemies.” The manipulation of laws, the use of judicial operators and the abuse of state forces against political adversaries and opponents was known as Criminal Law of the Enemy during National Socialist Germany.

It is ethically appropriate to think about the human condition of those released prisoners, who were practically hostages and bargaining chips of the dictatorship. After a long imprisonment with degrading treatment, deprived of such elementary rights (receiving sunlight, reading, writing, or having regular visits) and several of them confined in punishment cells, the highly emotional reunion with their loved ones, relatives, and friends (personal and of struggle) has filled the atmosphere with joy and fraternity.

The ability to empathize with each other’s joy or suffering makes us aware of our shared humanity. As the writer Viktor E. Frankl, a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, reflected, for life to have meaning, it is indispensable to maintain a vital attitude even in the most hopeless moments. For those released from prison, seeing themselves free is profoundly life-giving. Their mental and emotional health must be a major concern.

The dawn of February 9, 2023, was the dawn of freedom for 222 prisoners of conscience. These are men and women, young and old, leaders and activists, professionals and students, who did not deserve even to set foot in a prison (their trials were a sad spectacle such as the Moscow Trials in Stalin’s times), but they were incarcerated because they embody the “spirit of April” and express in their rebelliousness with cause the pride of their nation and the courage of their people. They carry with them their national roots wherever they are because the Jus Sanguinis and the Ius Soli are not lost because some rulers in their lust for power accuse them of being traitors while they see themselves in a mirror. A Chinese proverb says: “the closer the chaos, the closer the solution” and the rules enacted to harm will be abrogated to make way for new ones that repair it in a comprehensive process of restorative justice.

Now that the life, liberty and physical integrity of 222 people are safe from the red-and-black Leviathan after eating poorly, sleeping poorly, and under-medicating their illnesses without knowing when or how they were going to leave, the political leadership of the opposition can accelerate its phase of organizational reconstitution to define a medium-term strategy of resistance in terms of democratic transition, prepare well-founded proposals and act with a willingness for change based on a political philosophy centered on liberty.

A post-dictatorship Nicaragua, on the road to democracy and prosperity, unquestionably requires an educated, belligerent, and ethically advanced leading class that discusses the underlying problems and not so much the trips, spokespersons and appearances of time worn faces representing small groups without a social base or acronyms without people. Opposition groups need to be opposition forces endowed with legitimacy and public sympathy for the democratic transition expected by the civilized world. The enormous challenge lies in capitalizing on the widespread disapproval of the Sandinista regime and being ready if its autocratic system collapses from within due to its own antagonisms and the international context.

Almost four years passed for another massive release of political prisoners after more than 700 self-convened captured between 2018 and 2019 (among them, student leaders and activists such Yaritzha Rostran, Levis Rugama, Victoria Obando, Nahiroby Olivas, Luis Quiroz or Eva Amaya Coppens). Now, the release of young politicians and activists like Lesther Aleman, Max Jerez, Mildred Rayo, Samantha Jiron or Muammar Vado; of political and civil society leading figures like Felix Maradiaga, Edgard Parrales, Freddy Navas (who was my cell neighbor in 2019), Violeta Granera, Juan Sebastian Chamorro, Cristiana Chamorro, Dora Maria Tellez, Suyen Barahona or Maria Oviedo; is a gentle breeze of optimism and conviction. This, especially when a mother or a father is able to give their children again a warm hug without time conscription or uniformed men with guns on their backs. The country that saw them expelled by the dictatorship will be a country that will welcome them when there is again democracy.

There are still thirty+ political prisoners, including the religious leader Rolando Alvarez, and thinking of them requires a strategic vision, since at any moment circumstances could change and another operation of massive arrests could take place. Every dictatorship is strong one second before it falls and beyond the negotiations in between, it is up to Nicaraguans to take responsibility for their own destiny. The dawn of a free Nicaragua is the first hours of a clock that won’t stop ticking and in the future the aging two-headed dictatorship will succumb to give way to the next sociopolitical stage. We must prepare and be ready.

The poet Issac Felipe Azofeifa wisely expressed it in his verse: “Truly, my son. All the stars have departed.  But it never gets as dark as when dawn is about to break.”

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