Hundreds of exiled Nicaraguans marched through the streets of Costa Rica’s capital on Sunday, July 18, under the banner, “Nicaragua isn’t alone”. They demanded freedom for the over 140 political prisoners, and justice for the crimes committed by the Ortega regime. They also issued a firm “no to the electoral circus”.
The demonstrators noted that Nicaragua does not offer any of the conditions needed to guarantee free, transparent and observed elections next November 7.
Farm leader Francisca Ramirez travelled from Upala near the Nicaraguan border, together with a group of 55 others, to participate in the Blue and White march in San Jose. The opposition leader has been in exile since 2018, following threats and persecution. She explained that the Ortega regime speaks of elections, but continues to hold 26 prisoners incommunicado, among them rural leaders, opposition figures and journalists.
Ramirez added: “Anyone entering into elections without adequate conditions generates a lot of doubts, and that’s what we’re seeing today in the political parties.”
The farm movement “doesn’t expect there’ll be a change in November, because it’s all an electoral circus. We don’t believe it, and we don’t see the necessary conditions,” Francisca Ramirez asserted.
The peaceful demonstration included Venezuelan and Cuban exiles, raising a united voice against the dictatorships in their respective countries. Participants left the La Sabana park a little after 10 am and marched to the Plaza de la Democracia.
Participants sported Nicaraguan t-shirts, blue-and-white flags, headbands and plastic horns that they blew as they chorused slogans demanding freedom and justice. All these refrains had been part of the civic struggle in April 2018. “Democracy yes, dictatorship no!”; “the people united will never be defeated”, and “long live a free Nicaragua”, they yelled at the top of their lungs.
Meanwhile, a group of Cubans shouted “Patria y vida!” [Fatherland and life]. This phrase was the slogan of the unprecedented protests that occurred on the island on July 11th, in demonstrations that were violently repressed by the Cuban regime.
The Nicaraguan exiles also carried signs calling for freedom of the prisoners of conscience. Some held up posters with the faces of the 26 most recent political prisoners that the Ortega regime jailed without cause. These leaders have been imprisoned since June 2nd, when a new wave of persecution began against opposition leaders, presidential candidates, dissenting former guerrilla leaders, businessmen and journalists.
Jeicob Felix had on a t-shirt with the faces of some of the country’s political prisoners. He explained that the march was a way of demonstrating that Nicaragua will never be alone, and that the spark lit in April 2018 must be maintained. Marching was his way of offering “a shout for Nicaragua”.
Nelson Sillas of the farm movement said they are going to continue in the streets, demanding justice for all those the Ortega regime is holding captive.
He noted that conditions are currently lacking for any return to the country, because Nicaragua “has become an enormous jail.”
Yader Valdivia, a member of the “Nicaragua never more” [Nicaragua Nunca +] Human Rights Collective, also participated in the demonstration. He commented that Nicaragua is experiencing a total violation of the basic freedoms. They’re criminalizing the electoral participation of those who aspire to a change in the country. Journalism, too, is being criminalized.
The latest wave of repression has generated a second wave of Nicaraguan exiles. The most recent exiles are seeking asylum not only in Costa Rica, but also in the US, Valdivia stated.
A report from Confidencial indicates that from January 1st through July 13, 2021, a total of 13,515 more Nicaraguans filed asylum requests with Costa Rica’s General Directorate of Immigration and Foreign Affairs.
The number of Nicaraguan applicants tripled in June. Between January and May of this year, there was an average of 1300 asylum requests monthly. However, in June alone there were 4,378 new asylum petitions, Costa Rican immigration authorities confirmed.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times