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Fourth visit to political prisoners: El Chipote’s poor prison conditions persist

The political prisoners continue to lose weight, and several are in solitary confinement. Relatives demand more regular visits and to introduce blanket

Shouts and slogans come from the cells

Redacción Confidencial

6 de enero 2022


After 45 days, Daniel Ortega’s regime agreed to allow political prisoners —captured between June and November 2021—, a visit from their relatives on New Year’s Eve, after they were denied this right during the Christmas celebrations.

The visits, by groups, began on December 30th and ended on January 2, 2022. According to what several relatives told Confidencial, the meetings with the political prisoners lasted approximately one hour and 30 minutes. As in the three previous visits, the relatives were thoroughly searched, photographed, and watched.

The family of political prisoner Medardo Mairena, who was a presidential aspirant, denounced that he has lost 53 pounds since his arrest and the interrogations continue as a form of torture. In addition, he continues to be cut-off from the news.

“He has no access to any kind of news. He is grateful for the affection of all those people who remain attentive about him and all the political prisoners. He sends them greetings and continues to pray for the freedom of our beloved Nicaragua,” his family explained through his Twitter account. 

On the Facebook page of the Peasant Movement of Nicaragua, the relatives of Pedro Mena, a leader arrested on July 5, 2021, assured that he also continues to lose weight. He and Mairena have suffered different health problems during their time in prison.

A visit was authorized a day before

Felix Maradiaga’s family was allowed to see him on December 31. The day before they received a call informing them of the authorization to see him. According to his wife Berta Valle, the conditions in which the prisoners are being held have not changed. Family members are searched before entering and are not allowed to enter with a telephone or any other object.

“On this occasion, something we were able to see was that the official media took photographs of the family members who had arrived for the visits. It is the first time they do it and again, this is an invasion of privacy, and exposes people,” commented Valle, who added that during the imprisonment, her husband has lost more than 50 pounds.

She also explained that interrogations continue. In Maradiaga’s case he is in the company of another prisoner but does not have access to a blanket.

“The prisoners have told us that now that temperatures are dropping, they are getting very cold. Also, with the weight lost they are obviously more susceptible to the cold, and it has been impossible to get blankets in. My sister-in-law tried to make a request to the police officers who were there, but it was denied. So he also has nothing to cover himself with either,” Valle explained.

Additionally, prisoners cannot even use the uniforms they wear on visiting days as a blanket because after the visit is over, the uniforms are taken away and they get other clothes, Valle said. 

Maradiaga took advantage of the visit to ask to be allowed to exercise his religious freedom and to receive a Bible or counselling from a priest. “He insists for me to please do everything possible to be able to give him a Bible. It is the only thing he asks for, besides his freedom,” his wife commented.

Judge ordered regular visits, but they do not comply 

Suyen Barahona’s family members denounced that although last September the judge in charge of her case ordered that she be allowed weekly visits, the authorities have not complied. She is also one of the four female prisoners, along with Dora María Tellez, Ana Margarita Vigil and Tamara Davila, who are in solitary confinement.

“The judge had approved that weekly visits be allowed. So, we waited for what the judge indicated in her ruling to be complied with. We also ask that solitary confinement of these four women who have been in isolation for six months be stopped, that the food be improved and that we be allowed to bring them blankets so that they can better withstand the cold of these months,” said Barahona’s relative.

According to what they described, in the more than 200 days that Suyen, who is from the Democratic Renewal Union (UNAMOS), has been in prison, she has lost about 30 pounds. They estimate that she has been forced to undergo approximately 260 interrogations, without the presence of a lawyer.

After each visit they have seen a pattern that concerns them and that is that in the week after the visits the prisoners can receive no food, only water, as reported by Barahona’s relative.

“Usually, the week before the visit they allow us to leave them yogurt or some type of milk such as Ensure, but the week after they only allow water and we see that manifested, because she has lost more than 30 pounds and so have the rest of the political prisoners,” explained the family members.

Another pattern they have noticed is that the personal hygiene items that they leave such as shampoo or toilet paper are consumed quickly because two or three days after they deliver them, the officers ask for more.

Relatives: they are resisting given the extreme conditions

The family of political prisoner Juan Sebastian Chamorro was also able to see him. According to his wife Victoria Cardenas, the conditions in which he is being held have not changed. He continues to lose weight, but he remains firm physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

“Even though they are resisting, under these circumstances that violate their human rights, the message I want to convey is that the release must be urgent, immediate, without conditions and with guarantees, because these innocent people run risks every hour that they are in that cell,” she told Confidencial.

During the visit, the family was only able to bring in some cookies. Chamorro asked them to bring him a bigger towel because they have no blankets to withstand the cold. The constant interrogations continue, and they still have little access to sunlight.

Cardenas said that at the moment of entry the family members “they are searched inappropriately,” especially women, who have to lift up their bras to verify that they do not carry anything. They are not allowed to wear any accessory such as watches or even hair ties to hold their hair. And during the visit there is always a person nearby.

Ortega closed 2021 with 170 political prisoners

Nicaragua closed 2021 with 170 political prisoners, as reported by the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners, whose data is validated by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Of this number, 45 people were arrested between May 28 and November 22.

The list of political prisoners includes seven former presidential hopefuls, two former deputy foreign ministers, two dissident historic Sandinista ex-guerrillas, a business leader, a banker, a former first lady, five opposition leaders, a journalist and two student leaders.

Likewise, in the total group of 170, there are 27 who are between 19 and 25 years old, including two in “the 300”, a group of maximum-security cells of the Jorge Navarro National Penitentiary System, in Tipitapa, Managua, known as “La Modelo.”

“The relatives of the political prisoners are deeply concerned especially for the detainees who are elderly or who have chronic illnesses as is the case of Jose Pallais, Violeta Granera, and Hugo Torrez because they have illnesses and are in these conditions suffering a lot,” claims one of the family members.

The only visit that did not take place in the prison was that of retired General Hugo Torres, who for more than a week has not been in his cell at El Chipote, presumably due to a worsening of his health condition.

Sources linked to the Police confirmed that the retired general has been in a delicate state of health for more than 15 days but did not reveal the diagnosis of his illness or whether he has been transferred to a hospital of the Police or the Army, which he served for more than a decade, or to a Social Security hospital.

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times



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Redacción Confidencial

Redacción Confidencial

Confidencial es un diario digital nicaragüense, de formato multimedia, fundado por Carlos F. Chamorro en junio de 1996. Inició como un semanario impreso y hoy es un medio de referencia regional con información, análisis, entrevistas, perfiles, reportajes e investigaciones sobre Nicaragua, informando desde el exilio por la persecución política de la dictadura de Daniel Ortega y Rosario Murillo.