Confidencial

Irlanda Jerez 54 Days as a Political Prisoner in Ortega’s Nicaraguas

Irlanda Jerez during a protest caravan in June weeks before she was arrested. “I’m not paying my taxes to the State”. Photo: Franklin Villavicencio / Confidencial

The small business leader and dentist Irlanda Jerez has been for 54 days in an eight by four meters’ cell, in the “La Esperanza” women’s prison along with nine other prisoners of the Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo regime. In the room light filters through small slits the size of a concrete block. In 54 days, Jerez has been out in the open for just one hour and has lost 20 pounds. Despite the hardships, the spirit of this leader remains “unbreakable”, according to her relatives.

Irlanda is a person with a very strong character. She says that she is doing civic resistance inside there. Every Tuesday we bring her food, she fasts in the morning and only eats lunch, stated Daniel Esquivel, Irlanda Jerez’s partner. She was kidnapped on July 18th prior to the presentation of a series of actions of peaceful resistance organized by the “Blue and White Unity” movement, one of the many groups that arose as a result of the protests against the Ortega Government.

Two pick-up trucks with civilians, one from the National Police and four motorcycles with hooded men intercepted Jerez at around 3:00 in the afternoon, when she and her partner travelled in a vehicle. The officers stopped them at the traffic light of the Jorge Dimitrov neighborhood, claiming that her car had been “involved in a robbery.” They had guns pointed at them and the hooded men began kicking the doors. The authorities abducted Jerez without a warrant.

It was until the following day that Irlanda Jerez’s family knew that she was detained at the El Chipote interrogation jail.

Supreme Court says her detention was for a 2016 case

On July 19, a day after the arrest, the Supreme Court published a press release stating that in 2016 Jerez was convicted of fraud and swindling. She was sentenced to five years in prison in a judicial process that Daniel Esquivel dismisses as “obscure.” An appeal on the grounds of unconstitutionality and of revision of sentence was presented that should have stopped the detention of Jerez, but the relatives denounced that these documents “disappeared.”

“Irlanda Jerez bought a property as a merchant in the Mercado Oriental (Eastern Market). The person (that sold the property) had acquired it from another person and it turns out that there was a civil trial that is still open until now. There is an appeal on the property that Irlanda bought in good faith, where the former owner says that there was a revocation of the sale,” revealed Esquivel in an interview in the television program Esta Noche (Tonight).

However, for Esquivel, who is a lawyer, the old accusation is “ludicrous” and in this case, “the legal concept used was not appropriate.”

“Irlanda is the buyer and the swindling of property is used when you sell the same property to two different people. This is a violation of all her rights as a human being, as a person” argued Jerez’s husband.

Another aspect that calls attention to the case is that she is a merchant, who since the beginning of the protests opposed the government, and she now shares the same cell with other nine political prisoners accused of “terrorism.”

“She is with other political prisoners and if hers is a common crime, as the CSJ statement said, she should not be with them. It is obvious that Irlanda is being implicated for the mere fact of showing up at the protests and for being another self-convoked person and for calling for civil disobedience,” added Esquivel.

The defense attorneys requested a suspended execution of sentence which is scheduled for September 25. The relatives of Juarez do not lose hope that she will “go free,” even if there is no credibility in Nicaragua’s judicial system.

One of the voices calling for “civil disobedience”

On June 4th, at the “Mercado Oriental”, “civil disobedience” was declared against Daniel Ortega’s government. After almost 50 days of repression, merchants and traders of the largest market in the country stopped paying taxes and demanded the immediate departure of Ortega and Murillo. That same day, everybody in social networks was talking about Irlanda Jerez, the leader of the “Oriental.”

“When we speak of civil disobedience in the “Mercado Oriental,” we are talking about not paying the Mayor’s Office, no payment to “Conmema” (the office of the administration of markets), no payment of garbage collection, no payment of any tax related to governmental entities,” she said that afternoon in an interview of the television program “Esta Noche”.

Since then, Jerez became an active leader in the protests against the regime of the presidential couple.

“Irlanda always had a patriotic ideology, she does not have the color of any political party. When she saw the injustices, and how we were repressed in the first protest [against the Social Security reform]. On April 19th when we went out and they attacked us again, she decided to be one more voice demanding for our rights. Her principles are unbreakable,” stated her partner, Daniel Esquivel.

Some leaders of the Mercado Oriental who joined the civil disobedience have been forced to leave the country for security reasons and fear of being abducted. The case of Jerez is one of the more than 400 that human rights organizations such as the IACHR and the United Nations High Commissioner have compiled in their visits to Nicaragua since the protests broke out.