During the holiday season families of political prisoners along with Nicaragua’s opposition groups urge the liberation of political prisoners. Currently there are 118 political prisoners locked in cell-blocks throughout Nicaragua’s prisons and the government shows no signs of releasing them.
Political Prisoners Detained During 2018 Protests
As a result of social protests that occurred during the months of April and May 2018, Ortega and his wife (also Vice-president Rosario Murillo) carried out a strategy of violent repression. Nicaragua’s national police alongside armed paramilitary groups allegedly killed and injured hundreds of Nicaraguans. Government forces disbanded barricades and detained civilians who participated in anti-government demonstrations.
Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh) reported 602 political prisoners within the months of April and November of 2018. Since the civil unrest erupted in April of 2018, Ortega’s government has not ceased the violence, or persecution. Citizens who protest against Ortega’s administration face the risk of becoming a political prisoner. Many decide to leave the country to avoid being illegally arrested.
Overcrowding, Violence and Abuse in Nicaragua’s Prions
Being a political prisoner in Nicaragua means that one lives under the worst conditions. According to an analysis by World Prison Brief, Nicaragua is known to have the worst rates of prison overcrowding in Latin America. The detention conditions are also among the worst in the region.
In October of 2020 the Costa Rican organization Fundación Arias presented the testimonies of 18 former political prisoners. Among them were 11 women and 7 men who were captured between April 21 and August 18, 2018 by police or paramilitary forces, and suffered some type of sexual abuse. Ten women and two men claim to have been raped and a woman had an abortion as a result of the attack suffered at the hands of her captors.
The Story of Political Prisoner, Don Justo Rodrigues
Don Justo Rodriguez, 68 years old, was recently released from custody and handed to his sister in an inert state. Justo was released on December 20, 2020. According to his sister, her brother was skin and bones and is officially paralyzed.
Justo was illegally incarnated on April 10th of 2020, and sentenced for three years and six months for the crime “obstructing public functions”. Rodriguez became seriously ill in prison, and the guards paid no attention to his pain. Rodriguez was transferred to the nearest hospital after suffering a stroke.
According to his attorney Yonarqui Martinez states medical records reported Justo suffered blunt force trauma and bruising, which produced blood clots in the lower cerebral area, causing a stroke. This was a result of the torture Justo suffered in prison.
Ortega Continues to Criminalize Opposition Movements
Nicaraguan independent media shared images of Justo’s delicate state, which received attention from the international community. This was not enough to pressure Ortega to release more political prisoners. Instead, Ortega freed thousands of common prisoners.
Student leaders, like Kevin Solis and John Cerna, are currently in maximum security inside Nicaragua prison La Modelo. They are in tight cell, with no proper air circulation, and like Justo have suffered torture.
In this new year Ortega continues to criminalize, and persecute opposition movements. Ortega has not made an effort to release Nicaragua’s political prisoners, and continues to violate humans’ rights. With no sign of change it is crucial for the international community to continue to monitor, and pressure Ortega to release political prisoners.
Loved ones and families of political prisoners will continue to demand justice and freedom for political prisoners.