More than 200 opponents released this Thursday in Nicaragua by the government of Daniel Ortega, were deprived of their political rights, stripped of their nationality and “deported” the same day to the United States.
A court in Managua confirmed the release of 222 imprisoned opponents, but did not reveal their identities.
The news had been announced shortly before by relatives and exiled opponents, who indicated that among them were former Sandinista commander Dora María Téllez, former presidential candidate Cristiana Chamorro or Juan Lorenzo Holmann, but not Bishop Rolando Álvarez or other priests.
“The immediate and effective deportation of 222 persons is ordered. These persons have already been deported from the country, for which the respective documents have been sent,” declared Magistrate Octavio Rothschuh, president of Chamber One of the Court of Appeals of Managua, to the Nicaraguan pro-government media.
Stripped of nationality
The judge, who did not provide a list of the released opponents, added that all of them were deprived of their political rights in perpetuity.
Hundreds of opponents were arrested in Nicaragua in the context of the repression that followed the protests that erupted in 2018 against Ortega, in power since 2007 and successively re-elected in contested elections.
“The deportees were declared traitors to the homeland and punished for different serious crimes and disqualified perpetually to exercise public office […], as well as to exercise popularly elected positions, their citizenship rights being suspended perpetually,” the judge said.
“At this time the deportees are already in the United States of America. Thus, we consider the sentence to have been fulfilled,” added Rothschuh.
On the other hand, the “traitors to the homeland lose the quality of Nicaraguan nationals”, according to Law 1145 approved by the Parliament, controlled by supporters of President Daniel Ortega, which reformed Article 21 of the Constitution. The norm requires a second legislative approval in the second semester of this year, which is taken for granted
US hails “constructive step”
The news, already circulating on social networks, was hailed by the US government and exiled Nicaraguans.
US diplomacy chief Antony Blinken praised the release and said it could open the way for more dialogue with Ortega.
“The release of these individuals, one of whom is a U.S. citizen, by the Nicaraguan government marks a constructive step toward addressing human rights abuses in the country, and opens the door to further dialogue between the United States and Nicaragua on issues of concern,” Blinken said in a statement.
Arturo McFields, Ortega’s former ambassador to the OAS ousted after calling his country a dictatorship and now a resident of the United States, told AFP that “these people are being banished by the dictatorship in Nicaragua.”
“In a country in a democracy, a political prisoner is released, returns home, embraces his family and the state guarantees his security, his well-being and his fundamental rights. In Nicaragua, if someone is released, they don’t have those fundamental guarantees: the right to life, to free movement, to be able to demonstrate and continue being a citizen, that’s why they have to leave the country.”
Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramirez, who was Ortega’s vice president in his first term (1985-1990), and is currently in exile in Spain, expressed his satisfaction for the release of the prisoners.
“Today is a great day for the struggle for the freedom of Nicaragua as so many prisoners unjustly convicted or prosecuted leave prisons, prisons where they should never have been. They are going to banishment, but they are going to freedom,” Ramirez tweeted.
Relatives at the airport
Amnesty International’s director for the Americas, Erika Guevara, said on Twitter that relatives of prisoners had confirmed the release to her, but gave no further details.
“We received confirmation from several families about release of people imprisoned in Nicaragua. They have been sent to exile,” Guevara indicated.
Among those released are the French-Nicaraguan wife and daughter and the son-in-law of Javier Alvarez, a retired economist who was a Sandinista militant until the mid-1990s.
The economist’s wife, Jeannine Horvilleur Cuadra, 63, and daughter Ana Alvarez Horvilleur, 43, had been detained in Managua on September 13 along with the daughter’s husband, Felix Roiz, 56.
Relatives and friends of those released gathered at Dulles International Airport in the U.S. capital to wait for their loved ones.
The mother of Evelyn Pinto, a human rights activist imprisoned since November 2021, said she felt “hope” after the release of her daughter.
Lyana Barahona, who is waiting for her cousin Sueyen, a human rights activist and president of UNAMOS who had been in jail for more than a year, brought her a suitcase with clothes, because she believes they arrive with nothing. “I am too happy,” she said.