Exile of Artists and Human Rights Defenders Reflects the Terror in Nicaragua

By Gabriela Selser (dpa)

Gonzalo Carrion of Cenidh. Photo: agenciasnn.com

HAVANA TIMES – The exile of artists and human rights defenders who have denounced harassment and death threats on themselves and their families in Nicaragua reveals a worsening of the crisis and an increase in terror in the country, lawyers and activists said today.

“The deterioration of individual liberties continues to increase day by day,” said Gonzalo Carrion, legal advisor of the non-governmental Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh) to channel 2 TV.

Carrion lamented the departure from the country of his colleague Alvaro Leiva, director of the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (ANPDH), which on the weekend announced the closure of its offices in the country due to harassment and threats.

“It is bad news because it reflects the seriousness of the situation, the threats and the persecution by the Government of Daniel Ortega,” said the lawyer.

Citing Cenidh data, Carrión said that since the crisis began in April “there are more than 300 people killed or executed.” The ANPDH records 448 deaths, while the Government registers 195.

Alvaro Leiva

He added that hundreds of people are in prison for participating in civic protests and that more than 100 are already being prosecuted for serious crimes such as terrorism and organized crime. They are not allowed proper legal representation or contact with their families and human rights organizations.

The Government “tries to show normality, but that is impossible when the detentions  continue, when people continue to flee in hiding and when we have thousands of people asking for refuge in Costa Rica,” he said.

Leiva left Nicaragua with his family and his ANPDH team hours after the famous singer Carlos Mejía Godoy, 75, announced from Costa Rica that he had left the country and was planning to go into exile for security reasons.

Mejía Godoy is considered an icon of the Latin American revolutionary song since the 1970s, when he composed the lyrics of the anthem of the Sandinista Front, Ortega’s party.

For his part, the executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Pablo Abrao, revealed on his Twitter account that he ran into Alvaro Leiva and his team at the airport in Honduras, in transit to Costa Rica.

“I confess that I have never imagined witnessing a self-exile in its exact moment.” Crying, they said that despite the cost, it has been worth defending human rights in Nicaragua,” said Abrao.

Carlos Mejia Godoy

The departure of Leiva and other activists was evaluated on Monday in Managua by authorities of Cenidh and representatives of the Special Follow-up Mechanism for Nicaragua (Meseni), instance of the IACHR, and of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

It is estimated that over 23,000 Nicaraguans have arrived in Costa Rica in recent months, of which 8,000 have already received asylum. Also in San José are several student leaders and doctors persecuted by the Ortega government, according to local press reports.

Meanwhile, in declarations to the Costa Rican channel 7, Alvaro Leiva affirmed that Ortega “has no will to improve the situation of human rights as an obligation with the international community and as a constitutional mandate.”

“Nicaragua faces the biggest human rights crisis in the history of the country,” said the director of the ANPDH after denouncing the ongoing presence of vigilante and paramilitary groups that act outside the law. Leiva did not clarify whether he will request political asylum or refuge in Costa Rica.