Ortega's justice system detains former Violeta Barrios Foundation workers for 90 days

On May 29, the Judicial Power issued a press release confirming the detention of two employers of the foundation until August 26th

Walter Gómez's wife (center), accompanied by lawyer Orieta Benavides (right), at the Judicial Assistance Directorate. Photo: Courtesy La Prensa

2 de junio 2021


The Ortega Judicial Power decided to extend, by 90 days, the period of time to investigate Walter Gómez, former administrator of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation and Marcos Fletes, former accountant, who were kidnapped on Friday, May 28, by police and paramilitaries. According to a press release from the Judiciary, both were taken to the Tenth Criminal Court of Hearings (Juzgado Décimo Penal de Audiencias, in Spanish) on Saturday morning, while their relatives arrived at the Judicial Assistance Department of the National Police (Dirección de Auxilio Judicial) to find out about their whereabouts, but nobody gave them any information.

"During the hearing, the prosecutor of the Public Ministry, Jean Dylan Rivas Falcon, indicated to the judge that due to the seriousness of the crimes, namely Money Laundering, Property and Assets, which are considered organized crime, there is a probability that the accused could evade justice and hinder the investigation, for which he requested the extension to 90 days of the term of investigation and judicial detention", the press release of the Judicial Power states.

Now, Gómez and Fletes may be held by the Ortega Police until August 26, while investigations for money laundering, abusive management and ideological falsehood against Cristiana Chamorro and the extinct Violeta Barrios Foundation are conducted. She directed the foundation until February 2021, when they decided to close down in order not to submit to the control of the Law of Regulation of Foreign Agents approved by the Ortega regime.

According to the same document, the one who decided to extend the term was the Tenth Criminal District Judge of Managua, Dr. Gloria Saavedra.

On February 2, 2021, the Orteguista deputies in parliament decided to approve a reform and addition to Law 406 of the Nicaraguan Criminal Procedural Code, in which they extended the time in which a person can be detained for investigation from 48 hours to 90 days. This move caused controversy among opponents, who criticized that this would allow police to keep people detained without justification.

The fear of the opposition groups was based on the fact that day and night, the Ortega Police has dedicated itself to besieging the presidential candidates, former political prisoners and even those who benefited from the Amnesty Law in June 2019. The fear was that the regime would have more grounds to detain people under "investigation", and that would give the Ortega police enough time to fabricate evidence against them. 

No one informed relatives about the whereabouts of detainees

Police officers of Daniel Ortega's regime closed the gates of the Judicial Assistance Department of the National Police (Dirección de Auxilio Judicial) when they saw that the relatives and lawyers of Walter Gómez and Marcos Fletes, former workers of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCh), who were kidnapped by paramilitaries and police officers this Friday night, were approaching.

María Consuelo Céspedes, Walter Gómez’s wife, and lawyer Orieta Benavides, went to the Evaristo Vásquez Judicial Complex, known as "El Nuevo Chipote", which belongs to the Directorate of Judicial Aid of the Police of Daniel Ortega's regime. Upon noticing the presence of the relatives and the media, those in charge of attending to the public closed all the gates, and despite Benavides' requests to be attended to, she did not achieve results.

"We were about to ask for information here at the offices of Auxilio Judicial, as soon as they noticed our presence they immediately closed the gates and the access doors for information to the public and they did not attend to the call. As we have been able to observe and hear, there are orders not to let anyone in and apparently they are not going to attend or give any type of information", said attorney Benavides after several attempts to speak with an official.

According to what she explained, they went to the Judicial Assistance Department of the National Police (Dirección de Auxilio Judicial) to verify if Gómez and Fletes were in fact there, after having been kidnapped between the afternoon and night of this Friday. "We do not know their whereabouts", said the lawyer, and also emphasized that, according to the Law, it is the obligation of the authorities to provide information on where the persons kidnapped by the Police are. 

"We are going to analyze all (legal) possibilities. I can say that since the investigation began in the Prosecutor's Office, habeas corpus appeals and illegal detention threats were filed before the Criminal Chamber of the Court of Appeals of Managua. These appeals were filed on May 25 in favor of Marcos Fletes, Walter Gómez and Cristiana Chamorro and the three appeals were declared inadmissible", said Benavides.

She assured that for the moment, they are analyzing all the legal options regarding the case of the investigation for alleged money laundering that was unleashed against Cristiana Chamorro and the FBVCh by the Ortega regime. 

The relatives also went to look for Gómez and Fletes at the Courts of Managua, after hearing that a preliminary hearing had supposedly been held. However, lawyer Eyling Cruz assured that they were unable to corroborate the information at the Judiciary system.

"We do not have any information, we have not had access to them. We have no knowledge if any preliminary hearing has been held, we have not been notified," said Cruz.

"My husband has always been an impeccable man"

According to Cespedes, Gomez's wife, he was taken from his home by the Police, and an officer told her that he would be transferred to the Judicial Assistance Department of the National Police (Dirección de Auxilio Judicial) and she was told that the Prosecutor's Office "passed his case (to the Police) and we came to take him", although she clarifies that they did not present him with any arrest warrant.

"There was no warrant, I asked for it. And I told them calmly, because he went of his own free will. They took him away and then I stayed in the house to investigate. They came with violence, almost breaking down my door", said Céspedes.

In her account, she says that while an officer was knocking on the door, two other riot police officers were trying to enter the house through the garage, so she had no choice but to open the door. I asked him if there was a warrant and he told me that there was no warrant, but that I had to open the door".

She also added: "my husband has always been an impeccable man", and assured that everything that is being done by the Prosecutor's Office and the Police is merely "political, there is nothing else", she told the media.

Parade of journalists

Despite the fact that the Prosecutor's Office is carrying out an investigation against the Violeta Barrios Foundation, the Public Ministry paraded more than 14 journalists during the first four days of interviews in the midst of a series of irregularities committed against some of those summoned.

For example, Univisión journalist María Lilly Delgado, and former Foundation workers Lourdes Arróliga and Guillermo Medrano, were prevented from having their lawyers present, and they went from being witnesses to being "investigated" if they insisted on having their legal representatives present.

Similarly, a police officer forced journalist José Adán Silva to sign a sworn declaration statement, and later, when he left the Public Prosecutor's Office, he was detained by officers and paramilitaries who took away his identity documents to take photographs of them, and he was followed for several kilometers by vehicles without license plates.

In a statement issued on the afternoon of Friday, May 28, the Public Prosecutor's Office indicated that they will continue to summon those who have benefited from the programs implemented by the FVBCh.

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Ana María Sampson


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