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“Christmas without political prisoners” campaign underway for Nicaragua

European deputies advocate for “more diplomatic and economic pressure” on the Ortega-Murillo regime, in repudiation of the November 7th electoral farce

Families of Nicaragua’s political prisoners joined with the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy to launch a campaign to demand  “Christmas without Political Prisoners.” The campaign demands “definitive freedom with guarantees” for the more than 160 prisoners of conscience that the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo is currently holding hostage.

This is the fourth consecutive year of this campaign, which is held virtually, due to the police state imposed by the Nicaraguan regime. In the month of November alone, the regime has imprisoned at least 27 additional government opponents.

In a press conference, the prisoners’ families and the Civic Alliance invited the Nicaraguan population to join with human rights organizations and the international community in raising a united cry to free those who have been unjustly imprisoned.

“We’re a nation that deserves peace, social progress, decent jobs, good health care, a solid education and an acceptable quality of life for our families and fellow citizens,” the speakers declared.

No to unconditional dialogue

Fernanda Guevara, wife of Roger Reyes, who served as defense lawyer for imprisoned presidential hopeful Felix Maradiaga until he himself was imprisoned last August, was one of the speakers. She demanded the release of all the political prisoners, because it’s “terrible” to spend the Christmas holidays separated.

“I demand that my little girls have their father present this Christmas. My daughters are four and twelve years old and deserve to be with him (…). It’s cruel that our children can’t see their parents during this important season. Every day, they ask me about their papa, and I tell them that he’s working in a very distant place,” Guevara expressed sadly.

Lesbia Alfaro, mother of imprisoned student leader Lesther Aleman, affirmed that there can be no negotiation or dialogue while the political prisoners remain in Nicaragua’s jails, and not until their civil and political rights are fully restored.

In this regard, Yubrank Suazo, a member of the Civic Alliance, insisted that “the true opposition” will participate in a national dialogue only when several previous requirements have been “strictly” complied with, so as to offer guarantees of follow-through.

“If [the Ortega-Murillo regime] plans to call for a national dialogue, the true opposition could sit down [at the table] only after certain requirements are met. These include unconditional freedom for all the political prisoners, the reestablishment of civil rights, respect for human rights, and an end (…)  to the police state,” Suazo declared.

“It is hell”

We’re not only raising our voices, we are shouting for them to open those cells and release the political prisoners this Christmas, because they’re innocent people,” insisted attorney and law professor Maria Asuncion Moreno.

Victoria Cardenas, wife of imprisoned former presidential candidate Juan Sebastian Chamorro, warned that every day their loved ones remain in the different jail and prison cells, “their physical and emotional integrity, and even their lives, are in danger.”

Because of that, she underlined, it’s important to assure their “definitive” liberation, without leaving them at risk of being rearrested. That’s the only way “to end this hell we’re suffering.”

Online activities promoted

The Association of Political Prisoners’ Families also inaugurated a campaign to demand the liberation of all the imprisoned Nicaraguans. Among their activities is a virtual ‘citizens’ action.”

“We invite people to post the name of a political prisoner, together with an image alluding to the civic struggle, using the hashtag #NavidadSinPresosNiPresasPoliticas (“Christmas without Political Prisoners”) and #NavidadEnLibertadYa (“Christmas in Freedom Now”), the group manifested.

Ulises Rivas, himself a released prisoner of conscience and the brother of a current prisoner, stated that he was grateful for the two similar campaigns. To him, the important thing is: “that we continue shouting for the freedom of those who are locked up today, regardless of social status or how many followers they have.”

“We speak with deep pain, with the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s holidays, knowing that the political prisoners remain locked up. A profound ache consumes the families, friends and a large part of the Nicaraguan people as these dates approach, when families want to be together to celebrate as a united group,” the Association expressed in their statement.

The Association of Political Prisoners’ Families lamented “the persecution and new arrests” that are affecting many families, and “how thousands of our brothers and sisters are fleeing the country to face a painful exile.”

Regarding the possibility of a national dialogue, Karen Lacayo, sister of political prisoner Edward Lacayo, underlined that they don’t desire such a negotiation, “when our loved ones are being humiliated in the prisons, despite their innocence.”

European deputies demand more pressure on the regime

During a special session, members of the Human Rights subcommittee of the European Parliament warned they’d seek further diplomatic and economic pressure against the Ortega-Murillo regime. These Nicaraguan rulers staged their own “reelection” through a voting process that the European Union considers “a farce”. As a result, these deputies feel they shouldn’t be recognized as elected leaders.

Leopoldo Lopez Gil, a Spanish deputy in the European body, was the first to emphasize that the voting process last November was “a farce, a mockery” of the Nicaraguan people and the international community. For that reason, the Nicaraguan crisis has been put on the agenda for the next session of the European Parliament. 

“Once more, we propose the passage of a resolution condemning what happened in the elections. We insist that the European Parliament refuse to recognize the authorities that stem from such events. We must demand very concrete actions and solicit additional sanctions (..) for all those who participated in the violation of Nicaraguans’ human rights, including Mr. Ortega,” underlined Lopez Gil.

Among those participating in the session were: Cesar Dubois, husband of political prisoner Suyen Barahona; Olga Valle of Urnas Abiertas (“Open Ballot Boxes”); Haydee Castillo of Nicaragüenses en El Mundo (“Nicaraguans in the World”); and European deputies Hermann Tertsch, Leopoldo López Gil, Ignacio Sánchez Amor and Soraya Rodríguez. 

Soraya Rodriguez views the situation in Nicaragua as “truly terrible”.  “Ortega’s denunciation of the OAS Charter adds yet more concerning elements regarding the human rights violations in that country.” For that reason: “in the next (session of) Parliament, we’ll insist on passing this resolution to break through the dictatorship’s impunity,” she added.

European parliamentarian Tertsch also made reference to the sharp (authoritarian) turn in Nicaragua. He stated that there was only one way to stop this drift that Nicaragua was experiencing. “That’s through energetic measures on the part of the international community, in a way that hasn’t been done in Nicaragua, Venezuela or other countries,”

“We need the mechanisms we’ve created for sanctions to be applied conclusively, rapidly and firmly, to let that tyrant in Nicaragua know he can’t continue behaving that way, and that his actions have a high price,” Tertsch stressed.

Meanwhile, Dubois recounted the manner in which his wife was detained to the European deputies, and described the situation faced by the relatives of the prisoners of conscience. “Up until a few days ago, my son kept asking me: ‘Where’s my Mama? Why doesn’t she come back to us?’ It’s very hard to explain to a four-year-old child that his Mama wants him to grow up in a democracy, with justice and freedom, and that she -as well as over 160 other people-, are political prisoners,” he stated.

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

https://mailchi.mp/confidencial.com.ni/englishnewsletterform


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