On May 28 — and without knowing it at the time — Nicaragua witnessed the beginning of the most recent wave of repression of the Ortega-Murillo regime, which today holds 26 electoral hostages. Twenty-four of them are being held incommunicado, without food, family visits or access to defense, despite the demand to respect their human rights, which has transcended national borders.
First, the regime executed the second illegal raid on the recording studio of CONFIDENCIAL and Esta Semana on May 26, and after the first of dozens of interrogations at the Public Ministry, ordered the kidnapping of two former workers of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCh): Marcos Fletes and Walter Gómez, the first hostages arrested on Friday, May 28.
First hostages: Marcos Fletes and Walter Gómez
Marcos Fletes Casco
Kidnapped on May 28, 2021. According to the Attorney General’s Office, he is being “investigated” for alleged money laundering at the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, where he worked as an accountant.
The day after his capture, the Judicial Power informed that the Tenth Criminal District Judge of Managua, Gloria Saavedra, approved an extension of 90 days of the term to investigate him, together with Walter Gómez.
His family denounces that they have not been able to see him, nor has he had access to his lawyer. In the cells of the Dirección de Auxilio Judicial (DAJ), known as the “Nuevo Chipote”, they refuse to receive the special food he needs, because he is diabetic and they have only been given water.
Walter Gómez Silva
Arrested on May 28, 2021. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, he is being “investigated” for alleged money laundering at the FVBCh, where he worked as a financier.
According to the Judiciary, Fletes and Gómez were presented at the Managua Courts on May 29, placed at the order of the Tenth Criminal Court of Hearings, for a “special hearing for the protection of constitutional guarantees”, of which no further details were given.
His wife, María Consuelo Céspedes, denounces that so far, they have been unable to see him. “We still haven’t seen him, we continue with only water, one bottle of water each time. For all three meal times, they only accept one bottle of water. They claim that they give him food inside, but I don’t see how”, she declared.
Five days later, on Wednesday, June 2, it decreed house arrest for the independent aspiring presidential candidate, Cristiana Chamorro Barrios, former president of the aforementioned Foundation. The official argument is that the three of them are being “investigated” for alleged money laundering. However, they were only the first in an operation that the government baptized as “Danto 2021”, and which the opposition and the international community qualify as a “repressive escalation”.
The next person who was arrested, on Saturday, June 5, was aspiring presidential candidate Arturo Cruz Sequeira. The regime accused him of the alleged crime of “treason to the homeland” and, from then on, other aspiring presidential candidates, opposition leaders and politicians -as well as journalists and businessmen- were imprisoned under the same argument.
The confirmation that Nicaragua was facing a new wave of persecution by the Ortega regime came with the arrest of four opposition members in less than 12 hours. On Tuesday, June 8, aspiring presidential candidates Felix Maradiaga and Juan Sebastian Chamorro; Violeta Granera, member of the Political Council of the National Blue and White Unity (UNAB), and the former president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (Cosep) and member of the Civic Alliance, Jose Adan Aguerri, were arrested.
The deadline given by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) for the State to report on the urgent measures adopted for the immediate release of four of the opponents was reached on July 8. However, the Government has not even allowed the detainees to see their families, holding private hearings with defenders from the same Prosecutor’s Office that is accusing them.
On the night of July 5, the Police also carried out the most massive raid, with the arrest of student leaders Lesther Alemán and Max Jerez, members of the Citizens’ Alliance, and of aspiring presidential candidate Medardo Mairena, and peasant leaders Pedro Mena and Freddy Navas. With Mairena -who has been a political prisoner together with Mena and Navas in the past- six aspiring presidential candidates have now been arrested by the Ortega regime.
Aspiring presidential candidates arrested
Cristiana Chamorro Barrios
Under house arrest since June 2nd. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, she is being “investigated” for “money laundering” at the FVBCh which she presided over.
“I am not an official candidate and they intend to inhibit me. They are so afraid of change. United, Nicaragua will be a Republic again”.
The Judiciary pointed out Chamorro for alleged “abusive management, ideological falsehood in real concurrence with the crime of laundering money, goods and assets”.
The journalist and aspiring presidential candidate remains incommunicado in her house. Officers of the National Police are also stationed outside the house. Her defense lawyer, Orietta Benavides, was only able to speak with her for half an hour on June 8. She was able to receive a visit from her two children and was sporadically able to see two of her brothers.
“When I entered this contest I was very clear, I said that I will not be part of an electoral farce”.
The academic and aspiring presidential candidate was arrested at the Augusto C. Sandino International Airport, in Managua, when he was returning from Washington. “He is alone in a cell, he is receiving food and medicine sent by his relatives, of course I was able to verify that he has no physical or psychological damage”, said his lawyer, Elton Ortega, who was able to meet with him only once for 20 minutes. Days later, his lawyer went into exile due to threats.
Félix Maradiaga Blandón
Arrested on June 8th. Presumed to be in the cells of the DAJ or “Nuevo Chipote”. He is being “investigated” for alleged “treason” under law 1055.
“The regime cannot kidnap six million Nicaraguans who want freedom. The regime has demonstrated that not even with a rigged electoral process is it willing to submit to the will of the people.”
His wife, Berta Valle, insists that the aspiring presidential candidate has been kidnapped and disappeared because they have not been able to verify where and how he is.
Valle, along with Victoria Cardenas, wife of Juan Sebastian Chamorro, published an article in the Washington Post titled: “Ortega kidnapped our husbands. The world must act to save them and democracy in Nicaragua”. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered the Nicaraguan State to release them.
His wife, Victoria Cardenas, said that the first lawyer of the aspiring presidential candidate had to flee the country due to the threats, so they hired another lawyer, “but the appeals he has filed to see him have not been answered”.
Cárdenas says that the weeks of not being able to see her husband have been of “anguish, pain and impotence”. The IACHR Court ordered the Nicaraguan State to release him immediately.
“Far from what some people think, we were never naive, we knew that the worst scenario was coming”.
The journalist and wife of the aspiring presidential candidate, Victoria Chavez, insists on seeing Miguel Mora, imprisoned for the second time. “When I ask, they tell me, ‘yes, he is here’ (in the Nuevo Chipote). But until I see him, I won’t have the security of being able to say if he is really in there or how he is doing. In the meantime, he is missing” said Chavez in an interview with the program Esta Noche.
Medardo Mairena Sequeira
Arrested on July 5th. Signaled out as “ringleader” in the murder of four police officers and civilians in Morrito in 2018, an accusation for which he had already been a political prisoner of the regime.
“Maybe I am fine, maybe I am being tortured, but within the realms of possibility, I want to tell the people of Nicaragua that we continue to resist, that it is worth suffering for there to be justice and democracy in Nicaragua.”
Mairena is also being “investigated” for alleged “treason” under Law 1055. It is presumed that he is in the cells of the “Nuevo Chipote”.
In addition, the aspiring presidential candidate is accused of having led the “roadblocks of death”, and of a string of hate crimes during what the regime qualifies as “the failed coup attempt of 2018”. In February 2019, Mairena was sentenced to 216 years in prison and amnestied on June 11 of that year.
Under house arrest since July 24. He is “being investigated” for alleged treason under Law 1055.
“You can’t have a normal electoral campaign in a state where you can’t meet with the people”.
The aspiring presidential candidate remains incommunicado and isolated in his residence since July 24. Two days later the Public Prosecutor's Office requested a special hearing of constitutional guarantees to request the extension of the investigation and judicial detention period for 90 days.
A combo of laws to silence the opposition
In its arguments to justify the arrest of the majority, the Government cites alleged violations of Law 1055 or “Law for the Defense of the Rights of the People to Independence, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination for Peace”, a law passed in December 2020, which contains a single article to prohibit political rights to those whom the regime describes as traitors to the homeland”.
The Government also established a modus operandi: first arrest and then request an extension of up to three months from a judge, to “investigate”. In addition, with a reform to the Criminal Procedural Code (CPP), approved in January 2021, the regime extended the period in which a citizen can be imprisoned without being charged from 48 hours to 90 days, while – according to the official narrative – a “thorough investigation” is carried out.
Both laws are part of a combo of repressive legislation, approved by the Ortega majority in the National Assembly in less than six months.
The package of laws has been questioned nationally and internationally for attempting to inhibit and strip the opposition of their political rights. The “combo” includes the Law for the Regulation of Foreign Agents – which segregates Nicaraguans into two categories: “real” and “foreign agents”, violating their political rights – and the Special Law on Cyber Crimes, known as the “Gag Law” – which intends to regulate content on social networks and criminalizes the exercise of journalism – two legislations which have also been cited in the interrogations which continue to take place in the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic.
Political leaders, civic leaders, opponents, businessmen, journalists, workers
“Democracy must be rebuilt urgently (…) our country is mortally wounded”.
Granera was under house arrest from June 8 to June 11, when she was transferred to the cells of the “Nuevo Chipote”. Her son, Julio Sandino, denounced that the Nicaraguan State is not complying with the sentence of the IACHR Court which ordered her immediate release.
“We all know that she is an honest person who has fought for Nicaragua from her heart and without expecting anything in return, my mother, my favorite tayacana, will continue the fight from jail, we her children will honor her by continuing the fight from outside”.
“From within the regime there is a fierce campaign against the private sector (…) trying to intimidate you in such a way that they are really forcing you to work for the Government”.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ordered the Nicaraguan State to immediately release the former president of Cosep. His family has denounced that they have not been able to see him either.
A source close to the business leader explained that the lawyer who was handling his case communicated that he would not continue with the defense “due to threats” received. “We went two days without a lawyer,” the source said. The family had to knock on several doors to find someone to defend Aguerri.
“Daniel Ortega is holding the democratic process hostage, which today is not the deocratic process that was visualized for November 7”.
The 67 year old constitutional lawyer and former congressman has not been seen by his family or his defense attorney. His wife, Jilma Herdocia, has asked for mercy and warned that Pallais’ health is in serious danger due to his multiple ailments. He has heart problems, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, sleep apnea, glaucoma and spinal problems.
“Daniel Ortega knows that not even by stealing the elections could he stay in power”.
Ana Lucía Álvarez, sister of Tamara Dávila, affirms that neither her family nor her lawyer have been able to see her and that the Judicial Power “has been holding private and secret hearings” for the opposition leader, nor have her files been published on the electronic system of the Supreme Court of Justice. “As long as we cannot see her, she is still missing”, explains her sister.
“We continue fighting. This is part of the process, nobody quits.”
María Josefina Gurdián, mother of Ana Margarita Vijil and grandmother of Tamara Dávila, denounced the kidnapping of her relatives. “So far, we don’t know how they are. They are not allowing anybody to see them, not even their lawyer. For all intents and purposes, as long as we cannot see them, their legal status is that they are missing. They also do not allow us to deliver solid food to them, they only allow personal hygiene items, water and cookies to pass (into the prison),” she wrote in a letter.
“To eliminate all candidacy, all opposition, is the objective of a dictatorship in agony. That is why it resorts to massive repression. Nothing has worked out for it. Nothing will work.”
As with the rest of the opposition, the Ortega justice system ordered 90 days of imprisonment against the guerrilla commander accused of “inciting foreign interference in Nicaragua’s internal affairs”. Her family denounced a violent arrest: police officers grabbed her by the hair, hit her in the abdomen, handcuffed her and put her in a vehicle. She has not been seen by her defense or family either.
“Let’s hold on to hope and turn indignation into action.”
Peltier Barahona, Suyén Barahona’s brother, shares that his family is “worried” and feels “a lot of indignation” surrounding the arrest of his sister, whom they have not been able to see. “We have no problem with the police doing their ‘investigation’, what matters to us is that we can see her because that is a fundamental human right,” he said.
“These are desperate moves by a regime that feels that it is dying, that has no legal basis, with no justification from the institutional or legal point of view to remain in power.”
“We are worried about my father’s health”, Hugo Torres Turcios, son of the retired general, declared to the international news network CNN. He is confident that his father “has the emotional tools” to withstand prison, but he cannot ignore the fact that he is 73 years old and his health could face complications.
“This is a struggle that has got to move forward, that will not stop (…) and the bright future that the people deserve is victory and to free themselves from the dictatorship and the dynasty that they want to impose on us.”
Three times a day, at meal times, the relatives of Victor Hugo Tinoco arrive at the “Nuevo Chipote” but only the water and sometimes cookies or juice are allowed to pass through. They have asked about the medicine for Meniere’s Syndrome, which is characterized by very strong dizziness, ringing in the ears and loss of hearing. “We are concerned about his health,” insists his daughter, Cristian Tinoco.
Arrested on June 15, one day after being summoned to the Prosecutor’s Office for the case of alleged money laundering against Cristiana Chamorro, for whom he works as a driver. The reason for his arrest is unknown.
Vásquez, 59 years old, has been held incommunicado since his arrest and is the only person of whom the police did not inform about the reasons for his imprisonment.
He is a member of the Board of Directors of Banpro, and regional CEO of Grupo Promerica with presence in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Dominican Republic and Cayman Islands. He was also a director of Funides. Since his arrest, he has been held incommunicado. “We are confident in the moral quality of Dr. Rivas and we are confident that his situation can be clarified,” said Juan Carlos Argüello Robelo, general manager of Banpro Grupo Promerica in a statement.
Former congresswoman María Fernanda Flores Lanzas, wife of former president Arnoldo Alemán (1997-2002), is accused by the Police of carrying out acts that undermine Nicaragua’s sovereignty. Her legal representative, Óscar Vargas, assures that she is facing an irregular process. “That they have taken away my immunity and my institutional rights through a vote that took place in an arbitrary election, is one more demonstration of the type of government and dictatorship that we live under in Nicaragua”, she declared when she was removed from her parliamentary seat in November 2020.
“The struggle is not ideological, but one of dictatorship and democracy. Under the current circumstances of the country all of us are necessary”.
He remains incommunicado, without access to family visits or his lawyer. Margin Pozo, wife of the sports reporter, declared that police officers confirmed to her that Miguel Mendoza is in the “Nuevo Chipote”. “He is prediabetic. I am worried about his health and also, I asked if I could bring him food and they said no, they only gave me a list of what I can bring him, among them are water and some personal hygiene items”, she declared.
“The detentions that are increasing daily are even more serious and violate human rights because the citizens are placed under conditions of total isolation, without allowing them the right to defense.”
Forty-eight hours before being arrested by the police, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Barrios gave interviews to the U.S. networks Univisión and CNN, in which he did not rule out a presidential candidacy.
“In politics, you should never say no, especially if you are part of a political party. I have been a public servant all my life,” he responded. He has not received visits from his relatives nor from his defense.
“Those who remain must continue. This is a relay struggle, these are not moments to give up but to act. We are going to demonstrate that we are the majority”.
The police also justifies that he is being “investigated” for alleged “treason” with Law 1055, and transferred him to the cells of el “Nuevo Chipote”.
The university leader was violently taken from his mother’s house and is presumed to be in the “Nuevo Chipote”. Minutes before his arrest, he encouraged citizens to “continue” the civic struggle. “On this side of history no one surrenders. Our struggle continues until we reach freedom,” he wrote.
“The dictatorship wants to put an end to hope, we must continue this struggle for the freedom of the Nicaraguan people together”.
The university leader was captured in the safe house he lived in along with other students and is presumed to be in the “Nuevo Chipote”. “Let us not fall into despair.. We will recover our freedom together”, he declared in a video recorded before his arrest.
Pedro Joaquín Mena Amador
The peasant leader is also accused of allegedly having led the “roadblocks of death”, and of a string of hate crimes during what the regime qualifies as “the failed coup attempt of 2018”. He was sentenced to 210 years in prison for these alleged crimes in February 2019, and was amnestied on June 11 of the same year.
El líder campesino también es señalado de supuestamente haber liderado “los tranques de la muerte” y de un rosario de delitos durante “el fallido intento de golpe de Estado en el año 2018”, como el régimen califica a las protestas masivas en su contra. Por estos supuestos delitos fue condenado a 210 años en febrero de 2019 y fue amnistiado el 11 de junio de ese mismo año.
“Daniel Ortega is not the owner of Nicaragua, the owners of Nicaragua are each and every one of you”.
The peasant leader is also accused of having led the “roadblocks of death”, and of a string of hate crimes during what the regime qualifies as “the failed coup attempt of 2018”. He was imprisoned for those same crimes on November 17, 2018 and amnestied on June 11, 2019.
Under house arrest since July 24. He is “being investigated” for alleged treason under Law 1055.
“Daniel Ortega’s actions continue to demonstrate that he is panicking about the people’s mass voting on November 7.”
The commentator remains incommunicado and isolated in his residence since July 24. Two days later the Public Prosecutor’s Office requested a special hearing of constitutional guarantees to request the extension of the period of investigation and judicial detention for 90 days.
José Antonio Pedraza
Arrested last July 26. It is presumed that he is being held in the cells of the DAJ, known as “el nuevo Chipote”. He is “being investigated” for alleged treason under Law 1055.
“I am concerned that there are national groups that give the feeling that we are going to a normal election (…) when here we are experiencing an electoral abnormality.”
The political scientist was arrested after providing statements to the program Esta Semana and Channel 10. In a video recorded before his arrest, he declared that he is not afraid of the dictatorship and that what he is now experiencing “is just one more episode of the episodes that these individuals have created to intimidate and make the people of Nicaragua suffer”. He remains incommunicado.
Francisco Aguirre Sacasa
Detained on July 28. It is presumed that he is being
held in the cells of the DAJ, known as “el nuevo Chipote”. He is “being investigated” for alleged treason under Law 1055.
“It would be healthy to reflect on the state of our democracy and on how to build bridges rather than build walls between us.”
The former Nicaraguan foreign minister was detained when he was returning in his vehicle to Managua, after the Directorate of Migration and Alien Affairs prevented his departure to Costa Rica, through the border of Peñas Blancas, Rivas. Information of his capture was released a day later and a request for protection of constitutional guarantees was filed, extending the period of detention to 90 days.
Arrested July 29, in León. It is presumed that she is being held in the cells of the DAJ, known as “el nuevo Chipote”. She is “being investigated” for alleged treason under Law 1055.
“There is no logic in detaining a person to investigate them. The logic would be for the National Police to investigate a person and submit him/her to a process, but when there is well-founded probable cause.”
The coordinator of the special legal team of the Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH) was arrested in Leon when she was visiting her mother, Socorro Delgado. Her family and fellow human rights defenders have denounced that she is not allowed to see her and that she has only been allowed to receive “water and juice”.
“A kind of war has been declared unilaterally fro the state against its own people”.
“A kind of war has been declared unilaterally fro the state against its own people”.
The former Nicaraguan ambassador was detained after being summoned to the Prosecutor’s Office last August 9. Three days before, the Immigration authorities denied his exit when he tried to leave the country at the Peñas Blancas border post and took away his passport. He remains incommunicado until now.
This special report, published by CONFIDENCIAL, has been designed to automatically count the number of days that the electoral hostages of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo remain imprisoned in Nicaragua.
The regime has ordered 90 days of arrest to “investigate” most of them for the alleged crimes that they are charged with. Almost half of them have already spent their first month in jail. In other cases, the regime has not indicated how long they would be detained “under investigation”.
More than 130 political prisoners
In addition to the 26 electoral hostages arrested from May 28 to date, the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo holds more than 130 political prisoners in the cells of the National Penitentiary System “La Modelo” and “La Esperanza” and some police stations.
- Los presos políticos que pasan su tercera Navidad en prisión
- Demandan navidad sin presos políticos
- Los últimos presos políticos de la dictadura de Daniel Ortega
A report by Race & Equality entitled “Nicaragua, an unresolved human rights crisis” presented on July 7, maintains that these detentions are arbitrary and their judicial processes lack guarantees, and are a product of the political persecution by the Government, its institutions and sympathizers, who “act with impunity”.
The report indicates that State institutions have been part of the “repressive and human rights violating” scheme that has been implemented by the Ortega regime, highlighting justice operators such as: the National Police, Attorney General’s Office, judges and the National Penitentiary System.
From April 2018 to February 13, 2020, “the State of Nicaragua imprisoned 657 persons considered political prisoners”. In addition, 92 people “were not presented before the competent judicial authority” and the Prosecutor’s Office “exercised criminal action” against 361 citizens who “were not detained at the time of the formulation of the accusation”. Of these 926 Nicaraguans, more than 130 remain imprisoned, including ten from before 2018.