Daniel Ortega prevents the return to Nicaragua of voices critical of his regime | International

The exile has become a new form of repression of the regime of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. The Government has prevented the return to the Central American country of a priest, a defender of the rights of indigenous populations and the vice-rector of the Jesuit Central American University (UCA), a study center that was the epicenter of the student protests in 2018, which Ortega violently suppressed. The authorities have not explained the reasons why these Nicaraguan citizens have been denied their return, but human rights activists affirm that it is a reprisal for being voices that have criticized Ortega’s authoritarian drift.

The first case was denounced on Tuesday by Bishop Silvio Báez, a critical voice of the Catholic Church, who has had to go into exile due to the threats against him. Báez reported through his profile on Twitter that the Nicaraguan immigration authorities did not authorize the return to the country of the priest Guillermo Blandón, pastor of a church located in the department (province) of Boaco, in the north of the country. Blandón had traveled to Israel and it was during his layover at the Miami airport that officials from the airline he was traveling on handed him a statement informing him that “his entry into Nicaragua has not been authorized by the Immigration and Foreigner”. The document bears a mark that reads, in capital letters, “Immigration Rejection.”

The decision to prevent the priest from entering follows a series of actions by the Nicaraguan government against the Catholic Church, whose bishops and priests have been highly critical of the repression unleashed against opponents in the Central American country. The tensions between the Church and the Government intensified in 2018, when the regime unleashed a brutal repression against the protests that broke out that year and in which thousands of Nicaraguans demanded the end of the mandate of the former Sandinista guerrilla. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has denounced that government violence left more than 350 dead, in addition to expelling tens of thousands of Nicaraguans into exile. Since then, the regime has persecuted priests, besieged religious temples, imprisoned other priests, shut down Catholic media outlets and launched a fierce persecution against one of the institution’s main leaders, Bishop Rolando Álvarez, arrested in mid-August already whom the judicial authorities, obedient to Ortega, have imposed on him house by jail as a way of silencing him.

The Government has also ordered the banishment of the academician Jorge Huete, vice-rector of the UCA. Huete had traveled to Córdoba, Argentina, where he had participated in an academic activity as a representative of the Nicaraguan Academy of Sciences. The scientist, also an expert in molecular biology, was informed during his stopover in Panama that he could not board the flight with a connection to Managua because a “migratory rejection” had been imposed on him, according to sources from the UCA informed the magazine Confidencial. Huete had criticized, from his position as an academic and scientist, the way in which the Government handled the covid-19 pandemic, whose impact Ortega has minimized and refused at the time to declare a quarantine, because he considered that declaring it was “alarming”. and extremist.”

Huete is the second UCA authority that the Managua regime denies entry into the country. The university reported in July that Migration rejected the return of the Jesuit priest José Alberto Idiáquez, rector of the UCA, who had traveled to Mexico to undergo medical treatment. Idiáquez was part of the so-called Civic Alliance, an opposition group that brought together priests, students, businessmen, opposition politicians, feminists, academics and human rights activists who formed a negotiating table with the regime to find a way out of the deep crisis. Nicaraguan politics. Those negotiations failed due to the government’s closure in the face of opposition demands and Ortega ordered a brutal hunt against the members of the Alliance, many of them imprisoned and locked up in the cells of El Chipote, the feared prison in Managua that has been denounced as torture center. In an interview granted to this newspaper in June 2018, the Jesuit priest stated that, due to the harsh repression unleashed in Nicaragua, “Ortega is going to end up as a murderer.”

Added to these cases is that of Annex Alfred Cunningham, a member of an organization of UN experts on the rights of indigenous peoples. Federico Villegas, president of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations (UN), interrupted a session of the organization in Geneva on Wednesday to denounce that Cunningham was denied entry to Nicaragua, despite having Nicaraguan nationality . “I am sorry to have to raise an unacceptable situation before this council, which involves a member of the expert mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples, Anexa Alfred Cunningham, who in July traveled from Nicaragua to Geneva on his first official mission, but after the session in which he participated, he was prevented from boarding his flight back to his country because the Government of Nicaragua stipulated that he would be denied entry,” Villegas said.

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The official has reported that he has requested “on numerous occasions” clarifications on the decision to banish the activist, in addition to asking the Ortega regime to “rectify” that action, but has stated that he never “received a response or guarantees from the Government that Mrs. Cunningham could return to her country.” Cunningham is still in Switzerland. For Villegas it is an “act of retaliation” by the Daniel Ortega regime.

Uriel Pineda, an independent human rights consultant from Nicaragua, explains that this decision by the Nicaraguan authorities is “a totally arbitrary act”, that it has “neither legal form nor any type of basis” and that it is part of the political persecution and crimes committed by the regime against critical voices in the Central American country. “This is about undermining the right to identity, to free movement, because you cannot restrict access to your country, nor the renewal of your travel documents,” says Pineda. Although at the moment these people have been thrown into a kind of legal limbo, Pineda affirms that those exiled from the Ortega regime can access international protection. “In practical terms, these people can apply for asylum or refuge in other countries, but they remain stateless. It is an undermining of the right to a nationality”, settles the expert.

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