It’s been several months since we last wrote to you and unfortunately, things have continued to deteriorate within Nicaragua. In this brief update we’d like to focus on three pressing issues:
1. Update on political prisoners
The number of political prisoners has tripled since March this year and now stands at 89, including 16 women, Catholic Bishop Roland Álvarez and five Catholic priests. In recent weeks the Presidents of Chile, Colombia and Brazil have called for the liberation of all political prisoners and the UN appointed Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua (GHREN) has urged Nicaraguan authorities to “immediately release all persons arbitrarily deprived of their liberty “and to “cease politically motivated persecutions involving criminalization, arbitrary detention, arbitrary deprivation of nationality, and deportation”. (Click here for the full updated report of the GHREN published on the 12th of September 2023).
Twelve of the 16 women political prisoners began a hunger strike mid-September, demanding medical attention, potable drinking water and daily access to sunlight. There is growing concern for their health and welfare. On the 25th of September, the Ortega justice system sentenced women political prisoners, Anielka García and Olesia Muñoz, to eight and ten years in prison, respectively, for the alleged crimes of “conspiracy to commit harm to the national integrity” and “propagation of false news.”
Similarly, there are reports of at least 28 political prisoners facing serious health issues exacerbated by the crowded, unhygienic conditions in their cells. Some have chronic health problems, such as diabetes, hypertension and heart and kidney conditions, for which they are not receiving medical attention. Tamara Dávila, leader of the opposition party Unamos, who was imprisoned for almost two years in El Chipote jail, recently said that "there is a systematic psychological torture of political prisoners”. Davila herself was isolated in a cell without doors or windows and was one of 14 women released among the 222 deported to the United States in February this year.
Because of the steady increase in political prisoners and ongoing economic crisis, the Nicaragua Family Support Fund urgently needs to replenish the "common pot" so as continue to support the families of 73 political prisoners who do not have support from other sources.
Since April, families have been receiving C$3,000/month (about $85). Taking into account additional costs incurred over the Christmas period and the constant increase of political prisoners, we estimate that to adequately support families between October 2023 and January 2024, we need to raise US$25,000.
Please give what you can and ask others to do the same:
See below for more ways to support the Fund. Thank you!
2. The joint nomination of Dra. Vilma Núñez and Bishop Roland Álvarez for the Sakharov Prize
On 20th September, Tilly Metz (Member of European Parliament (MEP) Luxembourg and 42 other MEPs nominated Dr Vilma Núñez de Escorcia and Monsignor Rolando José Álvarez Lagos from Nicaragua for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought—the European Parliament’s human rights prize. Their nomination is one of eight.
SOS Nicaragua Europa (SNE) has launched a petition to urge MEPs to award the prize to Vilma Núñez de Escorcia and Monsignor Rolando José Álvarez. Anyone can sign the petition. The next round in the selection process is on the 12th of October and the final decision will be made on the 19th of October. Please sign and share with others in your networks. https://chng.it/Wg4cv66XDm
Vilma Núñez de Escorcia, when a student, opposed the Somoza dictatorship, for which she was arrested. She was the first Nicaraguan woman appointed Vice President of the Supreme Court of Justice in 1979. She is co-founder and has been president of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) for 33 years, one of the most emblematic human rights organizations in the country, which has led numerous struggles for the advancement of freedom and democracy. In December 2018, CENIDH was arbitrarily deprived of its legal status and assets. Vilma is currently Deputy Secretary of International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). Since the protests of 2018, CENIDH has documented and denounced the serious repression and accompanied thousands of victims of human rights violations—murders, arbitrary detentions, persecution, torture—in the documentation and advice of their cases, and in the search for justice. On February 15, 2023, without any trial, the regime declared her a "traitor to the homeland" and a fugitive from justice”, stripped her of her nationality, her property, etc. leaving her stateless in her own country, subject to multiple violations of her human rights.
Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos, since 2018, has been a victim of persecution for prompting in his homilies reflection on the country's crisis, state repression and on the victims of human rights violations. In August 2022, he was arbitrarily placed under house arrest. On February 9th, 2023, the regime banished 222 political prisoners. Monsignor Álvarez refused to board the plane and was therefore transferred to prison. On February 10th, without charge or trial, he was arbitrarily sentenced to 26 years in prison and his nationality was withdrawn, among other penalties. Since that day he has been imprisoned, stateless, and held in one of the country's torture centers, and his physical and psychological welfare is unknown, in flagrant violation of all his human rights.
Signing and sharing the petition is an important way to publicize and draw attention to the plight of all political prisoners and the continuing systemic abuse of human rights by the Ortega-Murillo regime.
If you are a citizen of an EU country, please write to your MEP and ask them to support the candidacy of Dr. Vilma Núñez de Escorcia and Monsignor Rolando José Álvarez Lagos from Nicaragua for the Sakharov Prize. You can find their email address here: Full list | MEPs | European Parliament | A (europa.eu)
Thank you for your continued support to the Nicaraguan people and their struggle for freedom, human rights and justice.
If you are interested in receiving weekly news bulletins on Nicaragua, you can subscribe to the following by clicking on the links below:
3. The seizure and closure of the UCA
(Text adapted from reports in the Dispatch)
In early August the Central American University (UCA) in Managua became the latest target of repression by the Ortega-Murillo regime, which used different state institutions under its control to close the UCA and seize its property and assets. The Ministry of Interior (Migob) froze the UCA’s bank accounts, while the Attorney General’s Office ordered the immobilization of the University’s assets through the Public Registry, as sources associated with the institution confirmed to CONFIDENCIAL.
In a follow-up blow, the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) stripped the UCA of its accreditation to operate as an alternative conflict mediation center, which was made public on August 14, in the Government Gazette (Diario Oficial La Gaceta). Pro-Ortega judge Gloria María Saavedra Corrales signed the UCA's death sentence on August 15, by issuing an official notice that accused the Jesuit university of having functioned as “a center for terrorism” in 2018, without providing evidence.
On August 17, the establishment of a new state university was announced, to occupy the campus of what for decades had been Nicaragua's best institution for higher education. The following night, witnesses saw people begin to dismantle the Universidad Centroamericana sign on the façade of the building, which by morning bore a new name: Universidad Nacional Casimiro Sotelo Montenegro.
Six weeks after the usurpation of the UCA, Nicaraguan authorities have failed to reinitiate classes and the academic future of more than 5,000 students and 546 educators remains at risk. In an interview on 25th September, Ernesto Medina, Nicaraguan academic and former rector of UNAN León and The American University (UAM), pointed to “Incompetence and ineptitude: there are no students, they have no budget, and they cannot create a real university” See full interview with Ernesto Medina here: The failure of the state university Casimiro Sotelo, after the confiscation of the UCA - Confidencial.
UCA students have been banned from transferring to other private universities in Nicaragua and an estimated 1,600 UCA students have applied to Jesuit universities in other countries in Central America.
The confiscation of the UCA has generated international repudiation, but it is not an isolated case. More than three thousand non-governmental organizations have been shut down in Nicaragua after the Ortega regime cancelled their legal status. This includes 27 universities and has dire consequences for Nicaraguan civil society.
More ways to support the families of political prisoners:
Artists Bill Horne and Claire Kujundzic are collaborating with Nica Family Support by providing profits for art dedicated to our work. 60% of sales for this art goes to Nica Family Support. Click here to see and order a silk screened print of a Nicaraguan license plate from 1979.
Nica Family Support uses house concerts to raise money. We'll help you sponsor one in your home or a home in your area. You find a musician or other entertainer who is willing to donate a performance and fill the house with your friends and family. They come for free. Well, they come for just the price of a pitch to donate to Nica Family Support!
It's a lot of fun, a relaxed way to ask for support for families who need it desperately. We'll guide you through figuring out the venue (inside or outside), finding an artist, deciding on the sound system. It's not hard.
If a concert doesn’t seem like a good fit, suggest another focus for a fundraising event.
We are on Facebook and we have a website. We are trying to get up and going on Instagram. We have a newsletter. Help with any of these activities would be welcome. Contact Tori Baker at email@example.com for details or use Messenger on Facebook.
Nica Family Support Contact Info
Website www.nicafamilysupport.org (Check us out!)
Thank you to everyone who continues to support the struggle for social justice, human rights, freedom and democracy in Nicaragua.
Nica Family Support