Tuesday, June 6

“Half-free”: Ortega prevents family reunification of deported political prisoners

The first time John Cerna, 27, looked at his twins after spending 1,027 days in a Nicaraguan prison, he noticed that both had very similar features to their eyes. He watched them through the screen of his mobile phone, in a video call and thousands of kilometers away. The banishment imposed by the regime of Daniel Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, prevents them from seeing each other. The children were born nine months before the National Police arrested him on February 28, 2020, due to his participation in organizing student protests. He didn’t know much about them before, because he practically lived in hiding, moving from time to time in safe houses in order to protect his life. Since his imposed exile in the United States, he confesses, via phone call, that it would have been better not to have seen them when he was still free. He knew that he was being watched by the Ortega y Murillo regime, due to his participation in those university movements opposed to the Government, in 2018. During his detention, the officers could have used the figure of his children to threaten and psychologically torture him, as they have done. made with other political prisoners who have small children. In the months prior to his imprisonment, the young student began to redo his university degree in Civil Engineering, interrupted by the protests five years ago and the violent police repression that marked Nicaragua that year. Within the National University of Engineering (UNI), a state campus, he organized demonstrations against the regime between April and May 2018. After his capture, he was accused of trafficking and illegal possession of drugs. Cerna now reveals that he witnessed the moment in which the agents of the National Police placed the drugs in his backpack. In that instant, he knew there wasn’t much to do. The regime covered political cases with common crimes. The repressive laws that typify “treason against the homeland” and “undermining national sovereignty,” which were approved at the end of December 2021, did not yet exist. Standard Related News Yes The Pope, on Nicaragua: “It is as if it were bring the communist dictatorship of 1917 or the Hitlerite dictatorship of 1935» Javier Martínez-Brocal It is the harshest statement he has made since the persecution against the Church began in Nicaragua «I talk to them [sus hijos] almost every day, but the possibility of meeting again is impossible, “says Cerna. He is the biological father of the twins, though, having no legal status after the banishment, he was never considered their guardian. In other words, there is no legal justification that allows him to claim the paternity of the children. The situation became complicated when he and 221 other political prisoners were stripped of their nationality last February after being deported by order of the dictatorship, losing their rights as Nicaraguan citizens. A tortuous process Despite the fact that the majority of released political prisoners have begun to rebuild their lives outside their country, very few dare to talk openly about the issue of family reunification. They are free, but most of their relatives remain in Nicaragua. Attempts to get them out of the country have resulted in a process that, up to now, has been tortuous, partly because the Nicaraguan government has deployed a whole tactic of delaying relatives. Three political prisoners who spoke to ABC asked to keep their cases anonymous until they are sure their families are out of danger. Most avoid speaking out on the matter, hoping that Nicaraguan institutions will not find an excuse to deny the issuance of passports or travel documents to their partners and children. «I have decided to stop speaking out because at this moment my wife is processing my son’s passport» «I have decided to stop speaking out because at this moment my wife is processing my son’s passport. It is a very complex process, especially in a dictatorship like Nicaragua’s. When I have my family by my side, I will feel completely free,” said a former politician who lives in Miami. His family has been summoned twice, with the promise that they are investigating his case. He hopes that in the third he can achieve it. If a refusal prevails, “we will have to assess other options,” explains the source, among which is the search for a “coyote” (or “pollero”) to take them out of the country. Mission impossible And it is that the relatives of the political prisoners released by Ortega and Murillo, and deported, face a new difficulty. Nicaraguan institutions have refused, in some cases, to issue documents such as passports so that they can meet with their families. Such is the case of Josefina – one of the political groups exiled to the United States by the Sandinista government on February 9, and who asked to be summoned under a false name because she hopes that her situation will be resolved – . At least two of Josefina’s relatives, her daughter and her grandson, have received refusals when applying for the travel document that allows them to leave the country At least two of Josefina’s relatives, her daughter and her grandson, have received refusals at the time to manage the travel document that allows them to leave the country. The afternoon of Monday, March 13, was the last time that her relatives went to an Immigration office in Managua, in order to manage the passport. There they waited for almost two hours to receive a refusal. What most attracts the woman’s attention is that even her five-month-old grandson has been denied the document. “The only thing they told my daughter [la madre del menor] they were going to continue investigating. How much do they have to investigate a baby? », Josefina questions over the phone from Los Angeles, the city where she lives after being exiled by the Ortega regime. She and the other 221 political prisoners were sent via chartered flight to Washington. Then, a Managua Court of Appeals stripped them of their Nicaraguan nationality. The measure includes civil death and statelessness. However, Spain, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico offered citizenship to the exiled Nicaraguans weeks after the announcement. President Daniel Ortega shows, last February, the list with the names of the 222 prisoners released and deported to the US. EFE Faced with this impasse, Josefina does not know when she will meet her daughter and grandson, whom she knows only through photographs, as she was born while incarcerated at the La Esperanza women’s prison. In February 2020, the National Police carried out an operation to arrest her and remove her from a safe house where she remained after the repression orchestrated by the regime in April 2018. “She has to wait, because they are internal orders,” the police told her. Migration officials to Josefina’s daughter. Stateless People The complaints about this new repressive action by the Ortega and Murillo regime have filled the headlines of the Nicaraguan media. Some journalistic reports mention cases of children of political prisoners in which the last name of the exiled person has been erased from official documents. This medium could not corroborate this information and this is not the case of the sources consulted for this information. “My son is in limbo, because at this moment he is in the care of an aunt who does not have custody” Juana, another political prisoner who was imprisoned at the beginning of 2021 and who asked not to be quoted with her real name, because His relatives continue to take steps in Nicaragua to obtain their passports, he is going through a similar situation with his son. Because she is a minor, she is the only person responsible for the guardianship of her 13-year-old son. “It is a weight that all political prisoners carry. My son is in limbo, because at this moment he is in the care of an aunt who does not have custody of him. He only has my last name, because I raised him as a single mother. I never thought that they were going to take us out of the country and take away our nationality,” she said from Miami, the city where she has lived since the exile imposed by the regime. The stateless, through an extensive public statement a month after her release, asked the United States for support to guarantee reunification. “We urge the US Government and the other sister nations that have offered us their nationality, to carry out actions that lead to our prompt reunification with our families,” they emphasized. They also “respectfully requested the Executive and Legislative branches of the United States to consider approving legal mechanisms so that the 222 passengers on the flight to freedom, as well as the 94 brothers who were later also illegitimately taken from Nicaraguan nationality, can receive refugee status.” or political asylum seekers in an expedited manner.” Meanwhile, many of the released and deported political prisoners feel half free. Despite the fact that the regime has freed them, their families remain captive in Nicaragua, a country where criticizing the government is prohibited by law.


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