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Tamara is at risk, her spirit remains strong

Despite the constant attempts to break her body, mind and spirit, Tamara is still strong and dignified. She has no trace of hate. She stands tall

Despite the constant attempts to break her body

Ana Lucía Álvarez

12 de julio 2022


With each visit, our beloved Tamara is thinner. She has lost about 40 pounds. Her body looks distorted: she is so skinny that her head and teeth look very big in relation to her body. She wasn't like that.

Tamara Dávila was a healthy woman with a strong body, radiant skin, sparkling eyes, and a smooth and rosy complexion. Now all of that has deteriorated due to the torturous conditions in which she has been kept in her jail cell at El Chipote.

That is why we are sharing this artist's rendering of Tamara, drawn from descriptions by family members who have visited her. They say the portrait reflects how Tamara really looked in recent visits. Along with that drawing we share the photo that was taken on June 11, 2021, one day before she was violently kidnapped from her house and imprisoned. Comparing the two, the deterioration is obvious. 

Only five family members have been able to see Tamara in the eight visits that have been allowed during the year she's been incarcerated, and during the trial. Seeing her like this has been shocking, as they see how her body shrinks each time. They leave each visit crying, with great concern for her health and life. That is why we decided to present this portrait publicly, so that the Nicaraguan people and the international community can see for the first time in a year the face of our beloved Tami, and can observe at least a little bit the physical deterioration that a year of torture in a sealed cell en El Chipote has caused. 

We are distressed by the impact this situation may have on Tami's health and life and we demand that El Chipote be opened and a reliable verification mechanism be allowed in to all the prisons and jails of the penitentiary system where political prisoners are being held, so that international human rights organizations such as the Commission of Independent Experts of the UN, and other organizations such as the International Red Cross can verify the state of Tamara and that of the other political prisoners.

Tamara's situation of course hits us hard personally, but in Nicaragua there are more than 190 families who experience this same pain. We will not stop demanding immediate freedom, without conditions and with guarantees, for all the political prisoners being held. In the meantime, all their rights must be respected.

In terms of nutrition, we demand that the denial of access to food not be used as punishment, and that the jail authorities deliver to Tamara all the nutritional drinks that we take daily to El Chipote. It is also urgent that they allow us to supplement Tamara's protein and vitamin intake with foods prepared at home, or at least with packaged foods that we can deliver weekly. Tamara should be permitted to manage these things herself in her cell. 

The bolted cell

Tamara has been kept isolated and incommunicado in a sealed cell since the first day of her captivity. She has been subject to solitary confinement and the impossibility of seeing human faces or interacting with other people. We demand an immediate end to solitary confinement, which also threatens her mental and physical health. 

Tamara spends every day in a bolted cell. This is a cell that does not have bars but rather a solid wall and bolted metal door that does not allow her to see outside her cell. Her food and medicine are passed to her through a slot in the door. 

She has not been taken out to the patio to receive direct sunlight even once. The only sunlight she receives is through the small openings and window of her cell. It is not enough. We demand that she be allowed regular periods of access to the patio and to sunshine with the other prisoners so that she has a space for social interaction with other human beings. 

Her medical and health care are deficient. Tamara has not had her period since she entered El Chipote, and she has never been seen by a gynecologist since being there. She turned 41 while in prison. She needs a mammogram, but  has not had access to one.

Tamara is an avid reader. During this long year she has not been able to read or write. We demand she be able to receive reading and writing materials. She suffers from heat, humidity and cold in her cell. Her back hurts from having to sleep on a sagging compressed mattress on a cement slab. 

But what hurts her most is her heart: She hasn't seen her six-year-old daughter for a year, not even in photos. 

What hurts her most

Tamara should not be in jail. All she did was to be an active citizen, exercising her constitutional rights. She has committed no crime. The worst punishment during her illegal captivity has been not being with her daughter. She has not heard her daughter's little voice nor her playful phrases. She hasn't smelled her clean baby skin. She hasn't lulled her to sleep every night, nor been able to watch her sleep. She hasn't been by her side through every fever, cold, or stomach ache, or when a tooth falls out. 

Tamara is afraid of forgetting her daughter's face and that her daughter will forget her. The stories that family members tell her during the visits about her daughter's daily life, her health, what she's doing, her playfulness, her intelligent and witty phrases, her progress at school, each new letter she learns to read and write, each centimeter she grows… None of that is enough to fill the immense void.

What hurts Tamara the most is her daughter's pain and fundamental need to see her mother, to touch her, to know that she exists, that she is alive, that she loves her, that she can count on her, that she is present as she grows. We demand that Tamara be able to communicate with her daughter regularly, that she be able to hug her, that she be able to have a photo of her and that she and her daughter be allowed to correspond through drawings and letters.

Tamara is an incredibly strong and spiritual person and during this year of solitary confinement she has trained her mind to remain sane and centered: she meditates, prays, sings, dances, exercises and imagines and creates stories in her head for her daughter, in the absence of a pencil and paper. 

Despite the constant attempts to break her body, mind and spirit, Tamara is still strong and dignified. She has no trace of hate. She stands tall. She is lucid and clear. She has plans for the future and trusts that things will get better. Despite everything, her soul and her spirit continue –and will continue– to be undefeated, just as she told us:

— “They are not going to bend me. I'm going to leave here smarter, stronger, and more committed."

We so appreciate the outpouring of solidarity with Tamara, with our family, with the families of the more than 190 political prisoners, and with the cause of justice, freedom and democracy in Nicaragua.


*Tamara Dávila's sister 

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff


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Ana Lucía Álvarez

Ana Lucía Álvarez