March 22, 2023

Nicaragua has launched 222 political prisonersincluding main opposition figures, pupil activists and different critics of longtime President Daniel Ortega, and despatched them to america in what Washington described as a “constructive step”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who mentioned there was one American citizen among the many freed prisoners, welcomed their launch on Thursday as a step “in the direction of addressing human rights abusesin Nicaragua.

The choice additionally “opens the door to additional dialogue between america and Nicaragua relating to problems with concern”, Blinken mentioned in a statementsadding that the discharge was “the product of concerted American diplomacy”.

A senior US official, who spoke on situation of anonymity earlier within the day, mentioned that a lot of these freed had “spent years in jail, a lot of them for exercising their elementary freedoms, in terrible circumstances and with no entry to due course of”.

Amongst these launched have been former Nicaraguan presidential hopefuls Arturo Cruz, Juan Sebastian Chamorro GarciaMiguel Mora and Medardo Mairena, in addition to distinguished pupil activist Lesther Alemanaccording to a Nicaraguan judicial doc.

The New York Instances Reported that the US authorities despatched a airplane to the Nicaraguan capital of Managua to fly the freed prisoners to Washington, DC. They arrived about midday native time (17:00 GMT).

Ortega has maintained that his imprisoned opponents and others have been behind the 2018 protests that he mentioned have been a part of a plot to overthrow him.

Tens of hundreds of individuals have fled into exile, most notably to neighboring Costa Ricasince Nicaraguan safety forces cracked down on these anti-government demonstrations.

Extra lately, the US and European Union have accused Ortega of launching a brand new marketing campaign of unjustified arrests within the lead-up to the 2021 elections, as dozens of opposition leaders and presidential hopefuls have been detained.

US President Joe Biden’s administration condemned the votewhich noticed Ortega win a fourth consecutive time period, as a “sham” – and Washington and its allies have heaped new sanctions on the federal government in Managua.

Lots of these arrested have been sentenced to prolonged jail termsoften on fees of “conspiracy to undermine nationwide integrity”.

In June of final 12 months, then-United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet mentioned the state of affairs within the Central American nation was deteriorating amid arbitrary detentions, harsh jail circumstances, a scarcity of due course of, and curbs to freedom of affiliation, amongst different points.

“I strongly urge the federal government of Nicaragua to uphold – not transfer additional away from – its human rights obligations. I name on authorities to instantly stop insurance policies that are in the present day solely serving to isolate the nation and its folks from the regional and worldwide communities,” she mentioned.


On Thursday, a senior Biden administration official mentioned Washington facilitated the transportation of the freed people to the US, the place they are going to be paroled for humanitarian causes into the nation for a interval of two years.

The official mentioned those that left Nicaragua did so voluntarily and are to obtain medical and authorized help upon arrival within the US.

State Division spokesman Ned Value additionally mentioned the Biden administration was offering lodge lodging to the previous prisoners and dealing with “companions” to assist them settle into the nation.

In the meantime, again in Nicaragua, a decide learn out an announcement saying that the 222 prisoners had been “deported” underneath an order issued on Wednesday that declared them “traitors to the nation”.

Octavio Rothschuh, a Justice of the Peace on the Managua Appeals courtroom, additionally mentioned they have been deported for actions that undermined Nicaragua’s independence and sovereignty.

Individually, the Nicaraguan Congress on Thursday unanimously accepted a constitutional change permitting “traitors” to be stripped of their nationality. It is going to require a second vote within the subsequent legislative session later this 12 months.

Activists hold up signs with names of some of the opposition figures released from prison in Nicaragua and flown to the US
Activists maintain up indicators with the names of among the prisoners launched from Nicaragua, as they await their arrival at Dulles Worldwide Airport exterior Washington, DC, February 9, 2023 [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

The best way Thursday’s prisoner launch was carried out has drawn some concern from rights advocates, together with Tamara Taraciuk, performing Americas director at Human Rights Watch, who mentioned it was “yet another instance of the arbitrariness of justice, dealt with on the whim of Ortega”.

“For there to be a democratic transition, it’s important to proceed monitoring the restrictions on civic area and the abuses in Nicaragua,” Taraciuk wrote on Twitter.

Nonetheless, Arturo McFields, the previous Nicaraguan envoy to the Group of American States, who resigned from his submit Final 12 months over the Ortega authorities’s human rights file, mentioned the discharge was “glorious” information.

“Hallelujah, glory to God,” he mentioned in a movies posted on Twitter.

Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty Worldwide, additionally welcomed the transfer, saying in a tweet that the ex-detainees “have been imprisoned just for demanding rights & talking up in opposition to Ortega’s regime of horror”.

Who else was launched?

Whereas the identities of all these launched weren’t instantly clear, members of the family of a few of these freed confirmed that their family members have been flying to Washington, DC.

Berta Valle, the spouse of the opposition chief Felix Maradiagasaid the US Division of State informed her that her husband was on the airplane, as reported by The Related Press information company.

Georgiana Aguirre-Sacasa, the daughter of Nicaragua’s former overseas minister Francisco Aguirre-Sacasaalso informed The Guardian newspaper that her father was amongst these freed.

“That is enormous,” she mentioned. “This has been a really lengthy slog for us and I simply can’t imagine it.”

In accordance with US officers cited by The Related Press, additionally amongst these on board the flight have been Cristiano Chamorrowho had been a number one presidential contender earlier than her arrest in 2021.

The daughter of former President Violeta Chamorro, she was sentenced final March to eight years in jail after being discovered responsible on fees of cash laundering that she denied.

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