Human Rights Defenders Demand Response from the Costa Rican Government Regarding Assaults on Joao Maldonado

The Costa Rican Office of the Presidency office denies that Maldonado was under protection of the Intelligence and Security Directorate

Joao Maldonado

16 de enero 2024


The Human Rights Collective "Nicaragua Never Again" urged the Costa Rican government to clarify the recent attack on Nicaraguan opposition leader Joao Maldonado and his partner, Nadia Robleto, on January 10 in San Pedro de Montes de Oca, San José, Costa Rica.

This is the second time Maldonado has been assaulted in Costa Rica. The first occurred on September 11, 2021 in Bello Horizonte, Escazú. That case has not yet been fully solved. "Both criminal assaults reveal a clear intention to end his life," according to the Collective's press release. 

The Judicial Investigation Unit (JIU) indicated that Maldonado, 34, had received seven gunshot wounds to various parts of his body, including his chest, upper body and head, while Robleto, 36 years old, received a gunshot wound to her head. 

"The case is under investigation, and in accordance with the provisions of Article 295 of the Costa Rican Code of Criminal Procedure, we are unable to provide further details about the incident at this time," the Unit said.

Regarding the incident, the JIU reported that the couple was traveling in a car near a private university in San Pedro de Montes de Oca when they were apparently intercepted by two individuals on a motorcycle who fired multiple shots at the victims. Joao Maldonado was able to drive the vehicle to the sector of Calle de la Amargura where they were approached by personnel from the Costa Rican Red Cross and a private advance support unit, who transported the victims to a medical center.

The JIU said that "colleagues from the visual inspection and evidence collection section were able to locate several ballistic elements inside the car that will be sent to the forensic science laboratories for analysis."

Perpetrators behind the attack have not been identified

CONFIDENCIAL has consulted with the Judicial Inspection Unit for further information on this second assault. They have responded that the investigation of the facts continues and they will provide details when they are known. 

The Costa Rican newspaper La Nación reported that the Intelligence and Security Directorate (ISD) is aware of Maldonado's case and allegedly provided him with protection.

The Office of the Presidency of Costa Rica issued a statement on January 11 affirming that the ISD "does not have the legal jurisdiction to provide shelter and protection to Mr. Maldonado or any other person."

"It is totally false that the Directorate of Intelligence and National Security raided a house related to this case," the statement said.

The Office of the Presidency stated that "there is no indication of the existence in Costa Rica of any cell organized and controlled by the Nicaraguan government," in reference to the statement made by Joao Maldonado to La Nación.

The Human Rights Collective "Nicaragua Never Again" (NNA) has asked the relevant Costa Rican government authorities to investigate and determine the material and intellectual authors of the attacks, and to bring them to justice as soon as possible.

The NNA Collective points out that Costa Rica is a signatory to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, both binding instruments that oblige governments  to protect the life, integrity and safety of persons seeking refuge or refugees within the country.

The organization Nicaraguan Exiles' Unity, to which Maldonado belongs, demanded in their own press release, "the clarification of the criminal actions that attacked [Maldonado's and Robleto's] physical integrity and threatened their universal right to life." 

Friends close to Maldonado and Robleto commented that despite the seriousness of their injuries, both are stable. They say that Robleto was transferred to another hospital for treatment, and they ask for prayers for the couple's speedy recovery.

NNA Collective requests consular protection for Maldonado and his family from Spanish Embassy 

In the same statement, the NNA Collective issued a request for the Spanish Embassy in Costa Rica to take the appropriate steps within the framework of the right of citizens to receive consular protection. Joao Maldonado was arbitrarily stripped of his Nicaraguan nationality on February 15, 2023, and the Spanish government granted him Spanish nationality on May 31 of the same year.

At the time of this publication, the NNA Collective has not received a response from any of the Costa Rican authorities or the Spanish Embassy in Costa Rica.

This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.


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Katherine Estrada Téllez

Periodista nicaragüense exiliada en Costa Rica. Se ha especializado en la cobertura de temas de migración, género y salud sexual y reproductiva. También ha trabajado en Marketing y Ventas y ha sido Ejecutiva de Cuentas.