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Daniel Ortega imposes the reign of fear: journalists and analysts opt for anonymity, exile or leave their job to avoid being imprisoned

Edgard Parrales, 79, a former ambassador to the OAS, is the oldest political prisoner in Nicaragua. He was arrested this week after giving an interview to a television channel. (Photo Oscar Navarrete / LA PRENSA)

On Monday, November 22, Edgard Parrales, 79, was arrested when he was leaving at around two in the afternoon to carry out a bank transaction. He couldn’t even get out of his home in Managua. Two plainclothes men got out of a blue Toyota Corolla car and grabbed him by force while he was still in the front yard of his home. “They are taking me by force!”, He managed to shout before disappearing as has happened with hundreds of Nicaraguans who are kidnapped and are being prosecuted for days by the Daniel Ortega regime.

In the morning of that day, Parrales participated in an interview on Channel 10 television, where he analyzed, from his experience as a former OAS ambassador, the departure of Nicaragua from that organization and the consequences that such a decision will have. This lawyer and ex-priest was one of the few voices that gave his opinion and criticized the Daniel Ortega regime openly.

In fact, his capture aborted a profile that about him Infobae elaborated, whose probable title is no longer possible: “Edgard Parrales: One of the Last Free Opinions of Nicaragua”.

No, I am not afraid of being captured. I only make use of the right that the Political Constitution gives me, although with these people you never know”, He had said in the interview conducted on the eve of his capture. “That is why I take my precautions. I try to go out a little, although I have noticed that they watch me”.

The Daniel Ortega regime is using, among others, Law 1042, Special Cybercrime Law, approved by the National Assembly on October 27, 2020, to silence critical voices and independent journalism. In Nicaraguan prisons there are at least six people directly linked to journalism and seven more detained for the opinions they have given in the media or social networks. In the case of Parrales and José Antonio Peraza – the latter a prisoner since last July 26 – they were captured shortly after leaving an interview.

“In Nicaragua no one wants to give an opinion anymore. The sources have stopped answering, and if they answer they apologize for not being able to speak, and if they do speak they ask that it be on condition of anonymity”Explains a journalist who also asks not to put his name. For security, journalists have stopped signing their articles and avoid identifying themselves as such in coverage, which is generally done clandestinely.

Many journalists have abandoned their careers to pursue less risky activities, and some 80 have gone into exile, from where they continue to report through digital platforms.

Miguel Mendoza, a sports writer, has been in prison for more than five months for his opinions on social networks.  (Courtesy photo)
Miguel Mendoza, a sports writer, has been in prison for more than five months for his opinions on social networks. (Courtesy photo)

The sports writer Miguel Mendoza fHe was arrested on June 21. He had no relation to any political movement and was only a citizen activist on social networks, where he expressed his dissatisfaction with the direction the country is taking. He was charged with “conspiracy to undermine national integrity.” The Prosecutor’s Office presented 10 of his posts on Twitter and one on Facebook as evidence against Mendoza.

The lawyer Maria Oviedo, a human rights defender, was arrested on July 29 and later accused by the Public Ministry of “spreading false news through information and communication technologies,” according to article 30 of the Cybercrime Law.

Similarly, on November 8, the journalism student Samantha Jirón, 21 years old, she was detained by civilians in the vicinity of a Managua hotel, disappeared for a few hours, and five days later accused on charges of the Cybercrime Law.

Two days earlier, on November 6, she was arrested at her home Nidia Lorena Barbosa Castillo, 66 years old, and accused by the Prosecutor’s Office of “spread of fake news through information and communication technologies ”.

This week the case of Evelyn pinto, 62 years old, defender of the rights of women and indigenous peoples, who was captured on the night of Saturday, November 6 and accused of spreading false news, without her relatives having been able to see her so far.

Nevertheless, Human rights defenders consider that the repression for speaking out in Nicaragua is much greater than what has been made public. Many families do not report the arrests for fear of further reprisals. “I have been in contact with two families who want their case not to be made public,” says Gonzalo Carrión, a lawyer for the body of human rights defender in exile, Never Again.

Samantha Jirón, 21, was arrested on November 8 and charged for her activity on social networks.  (Courtesy photo)
Samantha Jirón, 21, was arrested on November 8 and charged for her activity on social networks. (Courtesy photo)

The information portal Nicaragua Investiga exposed the case of Alexis Peralta Espinoza, 48, from the northern town of Condega, who was jailed this month on charges of “spreading false news through information and communication technology.”

“Since approximately the month of June of the year two thousand twenty-one, the defendant Alexis Peralta Espinoza has incurred in illegal actions that have caused alarm, fear, anxiety in the population, in the municipality of Condega and department of Estelí, carried out against people natural and legal, using as a method, as a means and as an end, data, computer systems, information and communication technologies in cyberspace, its purpose is the destabilization of social peace, interacting in different digital environments or social networks, such like Facebook, with the profile in the name of “Alexis Peralta Espinoza @peraltalex, Twitter and the WhatsApp application,” the prosecution’s indictment points out.

Against Peralta, whom the Prosecutor’s Office points out as having “practically an antisocial character”And of contempt for the legitimately constituted authority, they presented two of his tweets as evidence. In one of them, published on March 25, it says: “What happened Ortega gentlemen? Not that if Biden won it was better because he is a Democrat, in the US there is an official policy and it does not change, be careful with the FTA, and the sanctions on the EPS ”. The other is the comment to an interview with the Secretary General of the OAS on the CNN television network: “#Conclualmagronica No more government violence in Nicaragua.”

This is one of the two tweets used by the Prosecutor's Office as evidence in the process against Alex Peralta.
This is one of the two tweets used by the Prosecutor’s Office as evidence in the process against Alex Peralta.

Gonzalo Carrión points out that another figure commonly used against opponents is the “incitement to hatred “, also established in the Cybercrime Law. Under this figure the writer was accused Sergio Ramírez Mercado, who is in exile, and former diplomat Edgard Parrales.

The big, strategic objective for them is to silence society. The way they arrest people, with massive operations, with armed civilians, at night, with violent raids, without a warrant, instills terror and the message is that others stop saying what they are saying. Silence society. Every voice that denounces an abuse of power, that claims a right, puts itself in danger in Nicaragua, ”says the human rights defender.

However, he believes that the regime has failed to silence critical voices. “The population is always looking for how to demonstrate, just as it did on November 7 (election day) by staying at home, or with pints or anonymously on social networks,” he says.


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