More than 40 opponents serving sentences of up to 13 years in Nicaragua are “going hungry” and their health is in danger due to mistreatment and appalling prison conditions, their relatives said Monday.
“Our relatives (prisoners) are going hungry and we have again corroborated accelerated weight loss consistent with malnutrition, as is the case of (activist) Tamara Dávila, who we estimate already weighs less than 100 pounds (45kg),” the relatives warned in a statement read at a virtual press conference by Raity Larios.
Larios is the daughter of opposition sociologist Irving Larios, one of the 46 opponents who were arrested last year and held mostly in the police cells of Managua’s Judicial Assistance Directorate (DAJ), known as El Chipote.
The opponents, among them seven former presidential hopefuls, were arrested amid the country’s crackdown prior to last November’s elections, in which Ortega, 76, won a fourth consecutive term in office since 2007.
The relatives spoke out after a visit they made to the prisoners between April 28 and 30, in which they say they observed a “generalized deterioration in their health”, which they attribute to a “systematic policy of torture aimed at breaking their bodies and minds”.
“The punishments have become more frequent and range from emotional blackmail, threats of transferring them to smaller cells and with worse conditions and discretionary delivery of parcels” of food brought to them by their relatives, depriving them also of “medicines, drinks and even toilet paper”, they specified.
They pointed out that six opponents are being held in small punishment cells with double bars and that the sick do not receive adequate medical attention.
The general manager of the opposition newspaper La Prensa, Juan Holmann, suffers from heart problems.
For her part, Cristian Tinoco, daughter of former vice-chancellor and Sandinista dissident, Víctor Hugo Tinoco, said that she found her father “pale, thinner” and that he is beginning to show “memory loss”.
They complained that “the policy of isolation and incommunication persists” towards the prisoners, which consists of denying them telephone calls, letters and that they are not allowed to communicate among themselves.
During prison visits, family members are also prohibited from hugging or approaching the prisoners and the wives of the detainees have their “genitals and breasts” touched during police searches, they said.
President Daniel Ortega accuses the imprisoned opponents of allegedly trying to organize a coup d’état with Washington’s support.
All of those detained in the DAJ have been sentenced in the last three months to sentences of up to 13 years for undermining national integrity.