A humanitarian permit without a work visa: the obstacles faced by those deported by Ortega | International

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It was Rosario Murillo, wife of Daniel Ortega and vice president of Nicaragua, who approached the United States to agree on the "release" of 222 political prisoners, released and deported early Thursday morning to Washington. So, at least, Ortega made it known in a speech broadcast that same night on television. What the autocrat did not say is that the Sandinista regime hid from its counterpart an essential point of the agreement: the prisoners were going to be declared stateless as soon as they left the Central American country.

Sources familiar with the terms of the negotiation between Washington and Managua confirmed to EL PAÍS that this decision to strip them of their nationality came as a surprise to Washington officials, who had not been previously informed. "By offering the release of the prisoners, Vice President Murillo never suggested to the United States that deportation entailed the withdrawal of citizenship," a Sandinista source confirmed on her behalf.

As part of the operation, the vice president ordered the issuance of 222 new passports, delivered by the immigration authorities to the prisoners minutes before boarding the exile plane. When he left Nicaraguan airspace, the country's judicial authorities issued a statement in which they gave notice of the "deportation." The National Assembly met urgently to reform article 21 of the Political Constitution and strip the prisoners of their nationality.

These passports are valid for 10 years. Although in the hotel near Dulles International Airport where the State Department has decided to house the exiles, no one is very clear what the brand new documents are really for. "Are they valid? We won't give up until we try to use it," opposition member Irving Larios said this Friday at the gates of the hotel where the authorities have assured him, like the rest of the deportees, a room until Sunday.

Nicaraguan political prisoner Irving Larios, this Friday at the gates of the Washington hotel where the 222 deported by Ortega have been received. michael andres

Larios, like the rest of the new arrivals at the hotel, spent Friday morning trying to clarify what the temporary stay permit meant. (”parole”) humanitarian aid that the Joe Biden Administration had extended to them for two years. State Department officials gave them a six-page document explaining their next steps, telling them they had not been automatically granted a work permit. “We believed that this would be included. We can stay in the United States, but the procedures to be able to work will take us at least 90 days, ”explained the writer Óscar René Vargas, a close collaborator of Ortega for many years until he stopped being one and they put him in jail.

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For this reason, the announcement by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs that it was offering Spanish nationality to the 222 political prisoners exiled by Ortega was great news at the hotel where they are staying. “It is the best gift”, explained the historian and ex-guerrilla Dora María Téllez. “You have to take into account that many of those who are here do not know English; The possibility of starting a new life in Spain is very important for them”.

Several students and peasants interviewed by EL PAÍS on Friday confirmed that being forced to enter the US immigration process was an unexpected sentence for them. “They ask me as a first payment to disburse $400 with a credit card. I don't have 400 dollars, nor a credit card. But I just got out of jail!” lamented the student Kevin Solís, one of the prisoners who suffered the greatest hardships in Managua.

Kevin Solís, one of the released political prisoners.
Kevin Solís, one of the released political prisoners.Lenin Nolly

Ortega said in his speech that the decision to exile was a "matter of honor, dignity, patriotism" and not a wink to pave a negotiation with the United States government. According to the Nicaraguan president, the gesture does not expect anything in return. Nor have they asked, he assured, that Washington "lift the sanctions" imposed by Washington on the regime.

“They are returning to a country that is the one that has used them, its rulers, not the North American people, to sow terror, death, and destruction in Nicaragua. And now that the coup plotters have left, well, we breathe more peace in Nicaragua," said the Sandinista leader, who reported that there were a total of 228 prisoners of conscience who were going to be sent to the United States but that the list was finally reduced because four were rejected by the United States, and two decided to stay.

One of them was Monsignor Rolando Álvarez, sentenced on Friday by the Ortega-Murillo regime to 26 years in prison.

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