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Ortega executes wave of kidnappings during Easter: eleven people detained

Easter, Police in Nicaragua

From left to right: Jose Angel Cerrato García, Anielka García Zapata and Jasson Salazar Rugama. Photos: Confidencial

Redacción Confidencial

8 de abril 2023


Daniel Ortega’s police launched a new wave of kidnappings during the first days of April, focused on the Holy Week activities of the Catholic Church. At least eleven people have been detained by the Police, while the regime maintains its prohibition of processions and police officers monitor parishes.

Three of the detainees were imprisoned after resisting the regime’s ban on holding religious activities in Nindiri, Masaya; a fourth young person was detained in Managua, the fifth person in Chinandega, the sixth in Masaya, the seventh in Niquinohomo, another citizen in Nandaime and another three in Río San Juan.

According to the Blue and White Monitoring group from April 1 to 6, 2023, 15 arbitrary detentions, five harassments and one expulsion of a priest from the country have been reported. In total, 35 incidents related to the repression of the regime in nine departments of the country.

Jose Angel Cerrato García, a well-known government opponent of Nindiri, was forcibly removed by police officers from his work, in front of his colleagues, who were threatened not to intervene, this Wednesday, April 5, in Masaya. Previously, paramilitaries and police had besieged his workplace and confiscated his motorcycle, in an attempt to get Cerrato out of his office and arrest him. A video shows a police patrol transporting the motorcycle of the now political prisoner.

On Monday, April 3, the Police also detained a young man who was going to participate in the tour of the “Cirineos” in Nindiri, Masaya, a tradition that was prohibited by the Police, imposing siege and fear among the population of that municipality.

Another young man dressed as a Cyrene with a tunic, stood in front of the main door of the Santa Ana parish, in Nindiri, and in a video he highlighted the importance of celebrating these acts of popular piety, while a policeman recorded him in the distance. On Tuesday he was kidnapped and on Wednesday they took another man who was assisting him.

This Thursday the Ortega regime abducted the music teacher and former political prisoner, Olesia Muñoz, confirmed the Article 66 media outlet. According to the account of relatives, more than 15 police and paramilitaries went to her house, requesting that she accompany them for an “interview” and her whereabouts are unknown. Likewise, in Nandaime, the Police kidnapped journalist Víctor Ticay, a correspondent for channel 10 TV, after covering a religious activity that was besieged, confirmed the media outlet 100% Noticias.

The residents of Nindirí disseminated through social networks, videos and photographs that evidenced the siege, the threats and the persecution of the police. Some of the images show crosses and religious clothing lying in the streets, after the faithful fled from the police.

The Nicaraguan April 19 University Movement denounced this Wednesday the “illegal” and “arbitrary” detention of its vice president and also a member of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, Jasson Noel Salazar Rugama, 26, on the morning of Tuesday, April 4. April in Managua.

The young Anielka García, originally from Chichigalpa, Chinandega, was also kidnapped this Wednesday, April 5, after allegedly designing a T-shirt with a message alluding to the 2018 Civic Rebellion. On April 1, the Police detained Candido Sanchez Lopez, Luis Jose Ruiz Sanchez and a third person, all members of the outlawed Ciudadanos por la Libertad (CxL) party.

Of the eleven captured, nine are in the Managua District III Police jail, according to confirmation by the organization Urnas Abiertas, in collaboration with local networks.

Kidnappings characterized by violence

The abductions “have been totally violent”, “using excessive force” and a deployment of riot police, local police and paramilitaries of up to 20 troops to capture a single person, said Ivania Alvarez, a member of Urnas Abiertas.

“The Police broke into Jasson Salazar’s house with an operation of 20 agents in search of him. They made an illegal search of the house, took personal belongings and he was transferred in a patrol car to the District III Police Station in Managua, where we have confirmed that they have him unjustly detained,” said the April 19 University Movement.

None of the relatives has been able to see the detainees, they only confirmed that they are in the District III jail in Managua, because they accepted food from them. Alvarez highlights that as the fifth anniversary of the April rebellion approaches, local repression and police patrols increase. The protests of 2018 were crushed with deadly force by the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega.

Unlike previous years, the regime’s persecution has focused on the leadership of the Catholic Church, in addition to priests, lay people who serve Jesus Christ through prayer groups, the choirs, the pastoral ministry, and others. They have been “the target of police persecution,” to the extreme of being victims of express captures, Alvarez explained.

Through local networks, Urnas Abiertas, also reports an increase in police sieges related to religious celebrations in San Jose de Cusmapa, Madriz; Nandaime, Granada; Jinotega; Masatepe, Nindiri, La Concepción, in Masaya, where police reinforcements have arrived.

“La Reseña”, one of the traditions besieged by the Police in Nandaime, this Wednesday, April 5. Photo: Taken from social networks
“La Reseña”, one of the traditions besieged by the Police in Nandaime, this Wednesday, April 5. Photo: Taken from social networks

This Wednesday the Police persecuted, in Nandaime, young people dressed in red, purple and white robes, with their faces covered and carrying crosses to recreate the path of Jesus to El Calvario, an act popularly known as “La Reseña”. In photographs and videos released on social networks, you can see a patrol car parked in front of the El Calvario Church, from where the participants leave, who then fled from the uniformed officers.

The Ortega regime has banned Catholic religious processions and related activities since the beginning of 2023, citing security reasons. However, it has promoted the celebrations of evangelical congregations, which receive the support of the Sandinista municipal governments, noted Urnas Abiertas.

The repression of the Sandinista Front against the Church has been increasing since the end of 2022, when Ortega imprisoned the Bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Alvarez -currently sentenced to 26 years in prison- and prohibited emblematic processions for the Catholic people.

The intimidation and harassment caused the exile of several priests and currently, the surveillance by pro-Ortega operators in Catholic churches is another of the challenges that parishioners and priests face.

Catholic Church: the last refuge of civic resistance

Five years after the Civic Rebellion, the Ortega regime crushed the resistance of Nicaraguans who filled the streets in 2018 demanding democracy and justice for the 355 fatalities left behind by government repression. Ortega imposed a de facto police state and began a wave of abductions to generate terror among the population.

On February 9, 2023, the Ortega regime exiled 222 of its political prisoners to the United States. Shortly after, they declared another 94 Nicaraguans “fugitives from justice”; A total of 317 compatriots were made “stateless” and all their rights violated. However, there are still another 36 political prisoners in the country’s jails, according to the March update of the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners in Nicaragua. To these would be added the eleven recent ones if the regime does not release them.

In Nicaragua, the last refuge of resistance is linked to the Church, says Alvarez. During the 2018 protests numerous priests and some bishops supported demands for an end to the repression and opened the doors of their churches to protect the victims of violence. Several priests were persecuted by Sandinista mobs and their temples desecrated. Ortega has described priests and bishops as part of a “mafia” and more recently suspended diplomatic relations with the Vatican after Pope Francis called his regime a “shameless dictatorship.”

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.