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Release the political prisoners and suspend the police state

A dialogue without preconditions, as suggested by Cosep, or an economic monologue, as announced by the Government, will not bring peace to the country

Carlos F. Chamorro

1 de febrero 2022


Moved by pain and desperation over the physical and emotional deterioration of those who are suffering in prison, more than a hundred families of political prisoners have launched a new national demand for the freedom of the 170 prisoners of conscience. The demand includes the nullification of the political trials against them in order to preserve all their rights and constitutional guarantees.

The regime’s only response has been to schedule more political trials in the El Chipote jail complex, where trials of twelve prisoners of conscience are now pending in the coming days. Among these prisoners are: Yader Parajón, Yaser Muhammad Vado, Ana Margarita Vijil, Dora María Téllez, Miguel Mendoza, José Antonio Peraza, Suyen Barahona, Miguel Mora, Noel Vidaurre, María Oviedo, Irving Larios, and Freddy Navas.

On January 17, Donald Margarito Alvarenga was declared guilty in Chinandega. Alvarenga is a former Sandinista combatant who fought against the Somoza dictatorship and worked in the Interior Ministry during the 80s. He’s the first political prisoner to be tried under the Ortega-Murillo regime’s so-called “Cybercrimes Law” and “Defense of Sovereignty Law” passed at the end of 2020.

After expressing his anti-regime views on Facebook and WhatsApp, he was charged with the alleged crimes of subversion and incitement to hatred and violence. The only witnesses presenting “evidence” and testifying against him at the judicial hearing were the same seven police agents who originally spied on him and eventually abducted him. The trial, presided over by Judge Rosa Velia Baca, was held in a single one-day marathon session, lasting for 13 hours. Five days later, the judge issued a guilty verdict and sentenced Alvarenga to seven and a half years in jail. Twenty-four hours later, the judge corrected her sentence; however, instead of recognizing and repairing the trial’s legal aberrations, the “correction” was an increase in the sentence - to 12 years in jail.

Such are the “trials” with which the regime intends to legalize prison sentences for all the prisoners of conscience. They are not real trials, with a right to defense, and conducted by an autonomous Judicial Power guided by the Rule of Law. They’re nothing more than a despotic procedure of “order and obey” used r to carry out political vengeance, which is decided on and executed from the presidential bunker in El Carmen.

Among Ortega and Murillo’s 170 political prisoners are men and women of all ages, and from all parts of the country. There are former presidential aspirants and civic leaders; political leaders of rightist, centrist and leftist parties. The majority, though, are citizens unaffiliated with any political party: farm leaders and student leaders; intellectuals, diplomats and former members of the military; owners of productive companies, bankers, and trade union leaders; journalists and human rights advocates.  They represent a cross section of the Nicaraguan population, and embody the plurality and national unity of the blue and white Nicaragua that continues resisting and demanding democratic change, which the totalitarian project of Ortega and Murillo has been unable to squash. 

The 170 political prisoners are all innocent. They haven’t committed any crime, and their only sin is having protested during the civic rebellion, demanding justice and democracy, and aspiring to lead the clamor for free elections for all Nicaraguans – a demand that was forcibly violated on November 7th.

Opinion polls have reflected the national clamor of this great majority. They’re not asking for a pardon or an amnesty, but for the unconditional release of all the political prisoners, the annulment of their trials, and the suspension of the police state.

During the second national dialogue in 2019, the government committed itself to freeing all the political prisoners. However, Ortega only partially fulfilled that agreement, by decreeing a self-amnesty while keeping over a hundred prisoners of conscience in jail. These prisoners were never freed under that amnesty.

In addition, on March 29, 2019, the official delegation headed by Foreign Minister Denis Moncada signed an “Agreement to Strengthen Citizens’ Rights and Guarantees”. In doing so, the regime assumed a commitment to lift the de facto state of siege and restore all the constitutional guarantees. The government never kept that agreement, and the representatives from the Vatican and the Organization of American States who acted as international witnesses in the negotiation also failed in their obligation to guarantee its implementation.

On the contrary, Ortega reinforced the police state, passing new repressive laws at the end of 2020 and unleashing a fresh wave of repression and imprisonments, until the 2021 electoral process had been totally annihilated to such an extreme that four of the signatories of the 2019 agreement for the Civic Alliance - Juan Sebastián Chamorro, José Pallais, José Adán Aguerri and Max Jerez - are imprisoned and tortured in the prisons of El Chipote today.

So, to speak of an eventual “dialogue” with no preconditions with the Government that has failed to comply with the 2019 agreements, as the Superior Council of Private Business (COSEP) suggests, or to impose an economic monologue without freeing the prisoners or lifting the police state, as the government has announced, won’t bring the country any hope of peace.  

To restore the country's hope for a political and economic dialogue, it is necessary to first join forces and exert maximum pressure, nationally and internationally, to demand and achieve the freedom of all the political prisoners, the annulment of their trials and the suspension of the police state. This is the starting point for a humanitarian solution that frees the prisoners of conscience and their families from suffering, and that also seeks a political solution to the national crisis.

The way out begins with the recovery of basic liberties to tear down the walls of this great national prison in which all Nicaraguans, including public employees, both civilian and military, and the tens of thousands of exiles, are being held hostage, in order to find a national solution through free elections among all the living forces of the country, but without the jailers.

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times



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Carlos F. Chamorro

Carlos F. Chamorro

Periodista nicaragüense, exiliado en Costa Rica. Fundador y director de Confidencial y Esta Semana. Miembro del Consejo Rector de la Fundación Gabo. Ha sido Knight Fellow en la Universidad de Stanford (1997-1998) y profesor visitante en la Maestría de Periodismo de la Universidad de Berkeley, California (1998-1999). En mayo 2009, obtuvo el Premio a la Libertad de Expresión en Iberoamérica, de Casa América Cataluña (España). En octubre de 2010 recibió el Premio Maria Moors Cabot de la Escuela de Periodismo de la Universidad de Columbia en Nueva York. En 2021 obtuvo el Premio Ortega y Gasset por su trayectoria periodística.