“The order comes from above”, “you are on a list” or “you have a migratory restriction”, are some of the answers that opponents, including political prisoners, human rights defenders, activists and Nicaraguan journalists, have received when they tried to enter or leave Nicaragua during the repression unleashed by the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.
“Maria”, an opponent and political prisoner of the regime, told CONFIDENCIAL, under condition of anonymity, that last August 4, when she was trying to leave Nicaragua through the border post El Guasaule, in the west of the country, she observed that lists are checked for names, with which officials decide whether or not citizens can leave the country.
The opponent tried to leave the country legally because her lawyers informed her that even though she had been a political prisoner, there were no open proceedings against her according to the Judicial Power system; neither was her certificate of conduct tainted and, in previous months, she had no problems for the Police to give her a driver's license.
“Since I was released from prison in 2019, I was never notified that I had a migratory restriction, although I continued to be constantly besieged; then, I made the decision to leave legally, but I used my identity card to avoid having my passport taken away, in case something happened. As soon as I arrived at the border post and they checked my documents, they made me wait, took my identification card and said that they had called the Judicial Aid of the Police, because I could not continue,” she described.
“Maria” was isolated in an office, where a Migration agent searched for her name on two lists: one with a heading that read “91 persons with arrest warrant and migratory restriction”, and another where she managed to read “Arrest warrant - one thousand six hundred persons”.
“He found me on the one of 91 people, underlined my name with a pink highlighter and put both lists on the desk, close to where I was standing, but I did not manage to read names, only headings and a kind of charges of the people who were on those lists. The one of 91 people seemed to be of political prisoners, and on the other larger one, of a legal size page, there were positions of professions such as journalists, administrators and accountants”, she detailed.
They demanded 200 dollars to let her leave
The released political prisoner managed to cross the Nicaraguan border because she paid a “bribe” to one of the immigration officials, who demanded 200 dollars in exchange for letting her continue.
“A person who looked like a Migration worker spoke to the agent who was holding me; he told him to let me go, in exchange they asked me for 200 dollars, which I did not hesitate to hand over. They gave me back my ID card, I grabbed my things and they let me go,” she said.
Both officials advised her to “go around” the Migration building, cross the bridge and run without stopping until she passed a pile of sacks, where Honduran territory begins.
“Maria” complied with the instructions and once she felt sure she had crossed, she called her relatives to let them know she was all right. Her objective is to reach the United States to request asylum, but she has not completed her journey. She is currently “sheltered” in Mexico along with other Nicaraguans.
The former prisoner of conscience indicated that during her journey to the US, she met four Nicaraguans, who also tried to leave the country legally, but were turned away for being on those lists. Although, those four citizens are not former political prisoners, just opponents who supported the 2018 protests.
Army surveils the southern border with lists
On the southern border, a group of Nicaraguans attempting to cross into Costa Rica through “blind spots” were turned back by Nicaraguan Army officers on surveillance duty.
“The military were not aggressive and did not try to stop the migrants,” said a witness. But they did do a document check, and warned one of the travelers that they had “a list of surnames” over which they had to exercise special control.
On June 21, journalist Julio López reported that he arrived at the border post in Peñas Blancas, Rivas - in southern Nicaragua - and Immigration officials informed him that “he could not travel because there was a certification of migratory restriction”, and withheld his passport.
“On the passenger list there was an asterisk next to my name. When they asked me for my seat number, one of the officials said: 'This is Julito!' and they isolated me” said the journalist, who was trying to travel to Costa Rica for personal reasons.
Faced with the Ortega's imposition, López left through a blind spot and went into exile in Costa Rica, as a “last alternative to preserve his life and freedom”.
López stressed to CONFIDENCIAL that this is not the only case in which journalists have been denied to exit the country, as he knows of two other journalists with similar situations in recent months, who tried to travel and were informed that they could not do so because of alleged immigration restrictions. He clarified that these two professionals are already out of the country.}
Human rights defenders have also denounced being victims of unjustified migratory restrictions imposed by the regime. On August 6, lawyer Marcos Carmona, secretary general of the Permanent Human Rights Commission (CPDH), was verbally notified by Immigration authorities that he had “migratory restrictions” when he tried to travel to the United States.
The defender explained that he is not aware of any judicial process against him, let alone a court order imposing such migratory restrictions. In addition, he denounced that his passport was withheld and the Immigration officials only limited themselves to say that “he was only fulfilling functions of the Superior Direction”.
Carmona considered that the actions of the Immigration authorities “limit his rights established in the Political Constitution of Nicaragua” and is “one more of the abuses of those that continued to be committed in the country”.
Violation to the Constitution
In addition to placing restrictions on Nicaraguans departing the country, the Ortega regime has also prohibited the entry of some nationals it considers critical of its government.
Nicaraguan human rights defenders have criticized and denounced the actions of the Migration authorities and the Police of the Ortega regime, who carry out these types of actions limiting the entry or exit of nationals, explaining that a clear violation is being committed to article 31 of the Political Constitution of Nicaragua, which establishes that “Nicaraguans have the right to circulate and establish their residence in any part of the national territory”; in the framework of the complaint filed by its Secretary General, the CPDH explained that migratory restrictions can only be imposed by judicial authorities and are given in the framework of a judicial process opened against the national who is prevented from leaving.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff