MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — Relatives of 16 Nicaraguan opposition figures jailed in recent weeks demanded Thursday that President Daniel Ortega’s government let them see their loved ones, know where they are and how they are doing.
The families said during a virtual news conference that they believe most if not all of the prisoners are in the infamous El Chipote prison in Managua, where many of those detained for participating in street protests in 2018 were taken.
In 2018, families could at least line up outside to take their relatives food and medicine, but this time many families say they don’t know where their relatives are. The majority are above age 50 and some suffer from chronic illnesses.
“It’s been 11 days without seeing him, they don’t let him talk to his lawyer and they only let us bring him water. Why, because he’s been beaten?” asked Cristian Tinoco, daughter of the former deputy foreign minister Víctor Hugo Tinoco. Police arrested him June 13.
Cristian Tinoco said her 68-year-old father suffers from hypertension and the family has been told he has experienced vertigo since his arrest.
“I want them to let us see him because it is a human right,” she said.
Nicaraguan police began locking up presidential hopefuls and quickly expanded to other opposition figures. In a speech Wednesday, Ortega, who is running for a fourth consecutive term in elections scheduled for Nov. 7. said that all of those arrested were criminals and terrorists plotting to overthrow his government.
Most face nebulous allegations of crimes against the government. The international community has condemned the arrests and called for their release.
Victoria Cárdenas, wife of presidential hopeful Juan Sebastián Chamorro, has not been able to visit her husband.
“I don’t know where my husband is, nor how he is ... we’re desperate, helpless,” she said.
Without knowing officially where their loved ones are held, the families said they consider them “disappeared.”
Berta Valle, wife of another detained presidential hopeful, Felix Maradiaga, said her husband suffers from high blood pressure and she doesn’t know if he is receiving his medicine.
“We suppose he’s in EL Chipote, but there is not guarantee, nor evidence that he is,” said Valle, a journalist who has been living in exile for more than a year.
Two others under arrest — José Pallais, former vice minister of government and foreign affairs during the presidency of Violeta Chamorro, and Violeta Granera — are both over age 60 and their families fear for their well-being.
“Concern has become anguish, “said Jilma Herdocia, Pallais’ wife.
Julio Sandino, Granera’s son, said his mother was arrested June 8 and only in the past two days was the family allowed to bring her water, but no food.
“That is also a form of torture,” he said.
Also under arrest is 65-year-old Dora María Téllez, a well-known former guerrilla commander who later split with Ortega and became a leader of the Sandinista Renovation Movement. Another jailed former Sandinista guerrilla and Renovation Movement leader, Hugo Torres, is 73.
The Associated Press