In the middle of the night, often with violence, Nicaraguan police raided the homes of some 20 political opponents detained during the last month. It is the most terrible thing they have experienced, said family members and witnesses.
The wave of arrests and raids began on May 27 with the detention of Walter Gómez and Marcos Fletes, employees of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCH), a non-governmental organization promoting press freedom that operated for 35 years.
My husband was taken from my house and I haven’t heard from him since, said Consuelo Céspedes, wife of Gómez, a former administrator of the foundation. Céspedes believes her husband is being held in El Chipote prison in southern Managua, along with the rest of the captured opponents. But no one has seen them and Daniel Ortega’s government has not confirmed whether they are there.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the Foundation and its former director, opposition presidential hopeful Cristiana Chamorro, daughter of former president Violeta Barrios (1990-1997), who is under house arrest after a surprise raid on June 2, for alleged money laundering.
Although Judge Karen Chavarría issued a search warrant, police used riot troops to surround the house and acted violently, said Vilma Núñez, president of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh). The residence, located 11 kilometers from Managua, continues to be guarded by police.
The other detained presidential hopefuls are Arturo Cruz, Felix Maradiaga and Juan Sebastian Chamorro, arrested between June 5 and 8, as well as journalist Miguel Mora, apprehended on Sunday. Ortega assured that none of them is a candidate and that all of them are criminals.
They were shouting, kicking and Miguel tried to open the door and told them â€˜here I amâ€™¦ they said â€˜salganâ€™, but how could he open it if they did not stop kicking the door, said his wife, also a journalist Veronica Chavez, crying. Mora, director of the shut down 100% Noticias television channel, was imprisoned for almost six months after the social revolt that broke out in April 2018 and which the government called a â€œfailed coup dâ€™etat.
The logic of democratic countries is to first investigate and arrest, but we are getting closer and closer to Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea, stated lawyer and opposition politician José Pallais after the first arrests. Pallais himself was arrested on June 9 at his home in Leon, in the west of the country, which was also raided.
More raids took place on June 13, when the police arrested several former comrades of Ortega: the leaders of the dissident movement Unamos, formerly known as the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS). Three of them are former guerrillas Dora María Téllez, Víctor Hugo Tinoco and Hugo Torres – the latter also a retired army general – who were apprehended at night and violently, according to witnesses.
They grabbed him between 10 hooded men, put him in a van and took him away, said Arlen Tinoco, who witnessed his father’s arrest in a shopping mall. She said one of the men snatched her phone when she tried to film and threatened to beat her.
Three days later, police showed up to raid Tinoco’s home. They wanted to jump over the gates, shouted and threatened to throw them out, his wife, Deyanira Parrales, told AP, who said she asked for respect and non-violence from the police who entered her home.
Two of Tinoco’s five daughters received the rioters with prayers and a raised crucifix. St. Michael the Archangel, drive away the demons of evil, the women cried out as they walked through the living room before the undaunted gaze of the uniformed men, said Parrales. He added that no one was physically assaulted and no one was destroyed, but those were the most horrible hours of my life.
To arrest Tellez and Ana Margarita Vijil – one of the main leaders of Unamos – the police deployed more than 60 riot police and four patrol cars, his family said in a statement. He indicated that the police entered breaking doors and mistreated the women. The same fate befell Hugo Torres, 73, who in 1974, under the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza, participated in a Sandinista armed action that freed Ortega from prison. The assault to get my father out of the house was extremely violent, said his son Hugo Torres Turcios, who witnessed the event.
A similar complaint was made by the poet Gioconda Belli, sister of the former Minister of Education Humberto Belli, who fled the country after being involved in illegal activities together with 12 other businessmen. Her house was the object of a police raid and subsequent assault on June 19. Dressed as thieves at 3 am, they entered and took absolutely everything from the house. They threatened my sister-in-law and my niece. I don’t even know how to qualify this horror, tweeted the writer and activist.
According to relatives of the detainees, in many cases the police seized phones, computers and personal items such as photographs. The Attorney General’s Office reported that from Cristiana Chamorro’s house the authorities took documents to be analyzed.
We have found a network that had been conspiring, a network that has names and surnames, names of organizations and well-known people, said Ortega when referring for the first time to these events last Wednesday, when she accused the detainees of being criminals and agents of the Yankee empire.
He added that the opponents wanted to organize themselves to carry out another coup d’état and overthrow him. All of them will be prosecuted, there will not be a step backwards, he warned.
The U.S. government accused Ortega, 75, of trying to eliminate his main political rivals to ensure his reelection in the November 7 elections and start a fourth consecutive term in January 2022.