On Friday, March 11, during the latest simulated trial held in the El Chipote jail, Judge Luden Quiroz declared five political prisoners guilty of the fabricated crimes of money laundering, wrongful appropriation and retention of assets, and abusive management. The charges were linked to the accused parties’ ties to the now-shuttered Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCh).
Among those declared guilty was my sister, Cristiana Chamorro, ex-director of the FVBCh, who had aspired to run for President. My brother Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, founder of the “Citizens for Liberty” (CxL) party and former vice president of the FVBCh, was also declared guilty; so were former Foundation employees Walter Gomez and Marcos Fletes, and Cristiana Chamorro’s personal driver Pedro Vasquez, an ex-combatant who worked in the Interior Ministry during the 80s.
The Prosecution has asked for prison sentences ranging from seven to thirteen years, in addition to heavy fines. All this for alleged crimes they’ve been unable to produce any evidence of, even after nine months of investigations and seven days of closed-door hearings at the jail.
Like the other 170 political prisoners in Nicaragua, the five prisoners of conscience tied to the FVBCh case are innocent. They’ve committed no crime. Rather, for over 20 years, the main activity of the FVBCH Foundation has been promoting freedom of the press and free expression. That isn’t a crime, but a Constitutional right that’s been criminalized ever since September 2018, when Daniel Ortega imposed a police state on Nicaragua.
In reality, the campaign of political persecution against the FVBCh began in January 2021, the day that Cristiana Chamorro announced her decision to pursue the presidential candidacy for the opposition. That same day, work was already underway to orchestrate her detention, the pretext for the accusation, and this guilty verdict.
Another six aspiring presidential candidates for the opposition, and over 40 other political and civic leaders are also imprisoned, condemned to jail for demanding free elections. Any of the seven presidential aspirants – Cristiana Chamorro, Felix Maradiaga, Juan Sebastian Chamorro, Arturo Cruz, Medardo Mairena, Miguel Mora and Noel Vidaurre – were positioned to beat the Sandinista Front handily in the November 7 elections. That’s why the dictatorship had them imprisoned, effectively eliminated all the competing candidates, and stole the elections, all to ensure Daniel Ortega’s reelection.
My brother Pedro Joaquin Chamorro was taken prisoner by the police on June 25, 2021, to investigate him for alleged “conspiracy against national sovereignty.” His detention came after he stated in interviews on CNN and Univision that he was willing to accept a possible presidential nomination from the CxL Party, at a moment when the other six aspiring candidates were in jail.
The regime has punished him with nine months in an El Chipote jail cell for assuming that risk. Now, they’ve declared him guilty of “improper management”. Given that he did not manage resources at the foundation, there is no evidence of embezzlement of funds, and he was instead found guilty of mismanaging the maintenance expenses of a four-plex condominium in San Juan del Sur that he administered. This has no relation with the FVBCh Foundation of which he was co-proprietor, but the Prosecutor has asked for an eight-year jail sentence anyway, for that non-existent crime. It’s all merely to justify an act of political vengeance.
Walter Gomez, Marcos Fletes and Pedro Vasquez haven’t committed any crime either, but merely carried out their work honestly, efficiently and professionally.
The 177 political prisoners in Nicaragua’s jails today represent the decency and dignity of the country, in contrast to their executioners and torturers. Their convictions will never silence the demand for freedom. On the contrary, by sentencing them to prison terms that even extend past Ortega and Murillo’s current illegitimate presidential period, the regime is cutting short their own political survival. By condemning them, Ortega will reignite the national and international demand for the unconditional release of all the prisoners of conscience with more force. Their freedom is a humanitarian imperative, to save their lives from torture, and also a political one, to begin the liberation of a country that also finds itself imprisoned.
In the meantime, the clamor for justice to investigate the crimes against humanity that remain unpunished will still be pending.
In Nicaragua, we all know who the true delinquents are: those who carried out the greatest act of corruption in national history with the detour of more than 5,000 million dollars of Venezuelan state cooperation, to enrich themselves with their family businesses at the expense of the State.
The traitors to the country are those who violated the Nicaraguan Constitution and massacred the people who poured out onto the streets in April 2018 to demand freedom, democracy and justice.
The only coup plotters are those who executed a coup d'état from above, to demolish all democratic institutions, until imposing a totalitarian dictatorship.
Those who undermine national sovereignty are the allies of Vladimir Putin and those cheering on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These gestures have placed Nicaragua on the world map of sanctions against the Russian invaders and oligarchs.
Those responsible for the international isolation the Nicaraguan government now finds itself in, are the perpetrators of serious human rights violations, who have gone to the extreme of expelling the Apostolic Nuncio, Waldemar Sommertag, Pope Francis’ former representative in Nicaragua, from the country.
Justice will arrive hand in hand with the truth, once the dictatorship has ended. The road to change begins with the release of all the political prisoners, and the annulment of their spurious trials.
This articles was originally piblished i Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times