Government intimidates the mothers of prisoners being held in El Chipote jail in an act termed “immoral”.
Nicaragua Yells: “He’s Not a President, He’s a Criminal”
Managua, Leon, Chinandega, Matagalpa, Camoapa, Nueva Guinea among other cities went out to protest against President Ortega over the weekend.
“El Lobo” [“The wolf”] is wearing a mask from the historic play El Gueguense, which dates from the days of the Spanish Colony. “The mask isn’t to disguise my identity, but to represent the idiosyncrasies of our people,” states the youth from Masaya, one of the cities that has stood up most strongly against the guns of Daniel Ortega’s regime.
Now that Ortega’s paramilitary forces have succeeded in dismantling by force the hundreds of barricades that the indigenous residents of Masaya maintained for months as a form of “self-defense, those from Masaya face the government’s “hunt” of the young people. In honor of their resistance to all these attacks and in support of that heroic city, a march was called in Managua on Saturday, July 21, entitled “Masaya, you’ll flower”
“We’re full of pride knowing that we’re being honored. We want to tell you that we’re never going to surrender. They can take away our flag, they can remove the barricades, but they can never take away our desire to see our country free,” “El Lobo” adds.
There are hundreds of people along the Masaya highway like El Lobo, with a mask over their faces and wearing the folkloric costumes that have traditionally characterized Masaya. Thousands danced with these costumed figures marching to the beat of the marimbas.
The sound of the marimbas
As the residents began to file into the “Plaza of Victories” the marimbas play the traditional music. The skirts of the women’s huipiles wave to the beat of songs both traditional and adapted. Amid the music and dance, thousands yell slogans demanding the departure of Daniel Ortega.
Some four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the Masaya highway, hundreds of Nicaraguans also march towards the Central America roundabout to join the main activity.
“Bird”, a young girl with dark skin and a mask, was dancing throughout the route of the march to the Jean Paul Genie roundabout. She affirms that she’s wearing the mask “as a form of mockery for the colonizer who believes that he can prevail over the people, as did our ancestors.”
“For me, coming out with this costume today is a way of saying that we don’t want any more dictatorship, that we want our rights to be defended, rights that we’ve been defending for many years now. It’s a shame that we’ve backslid forty years,” she said.
The march ended at noon in the roundabout and the thousands of masked and costumed figures disperse in small groups along the road. The repression of the Ortega government means that the organizers must take extreme security precautions in the different activities being realized in Managua.
This day the slogan most often aimed at the Nicaraguan president was “He wasn’t a president, he was a criminal,” among others.
Marches in other cities
In Chinandega, hundreds of citizens marched down the city’s main streets to demand the release of rural leaders Medardo Mairena and Pedro Mena as well as an end to repression.
Meanwhile in Camoapa, the demonstrators went out on the streets after participating in a mass in remembrance of all those killed during the protests. In Leon, hundreds more were in the streets demanding Ortega leave power.
Government intimidates mothers camped out at the El Chipote jail
Hours before the marches called by the “blue and white” demonstrators, Daniel Ortega’s government organized a walk under the pretense of calling for justice for the police who have been killed in the protests.
The march of state workers and the family members demanded justice for those they termed “victims of terrorism.”
The majority of the marchers wore white t-shirts as “symbols of peace” and carried photos of the 22 slain police officers as well as several Sandinista sympathizers killed in the last three months.
However, the route of this march went right up to the gates of the El Chipote jail. This made it a direct threat against the mothers of the jailed and missing. For a number of weeks, these women have been camped just outside the gates of this jail, waiting for news of the whereabouts of their children who were arbitrarily arrested.
Some thirty mothers were evacuated to avoid confrontations, as the human rights organizations explained. Betzaida Guzman explained that the siege had been going on for several days. Guzman was there in support of her husband, Oscar Danilo Mendoza, who was arrested after refusing to return to the ranks to repress the population despite the fact that he had retired from the military in 2008.
“We had three very difficult days,” Guzman stated. “Motorcyclists kept coming by and would cross the zone from one end to another to see how many people were there. We felt surrounded, and we decided to leave to protect our own lives,” she explained.
The human rights organizations estimate that there are at least 53 people detained in this prison. Marlin Sierra, director of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh) declared that the harassment that those women have undergone “is cruel.”
“This was a mechanism so that in the future there won’t be so many mothers at the gate. They’re going to try to keep them from knowing if their family members are or aren’t there,” he specified.
For the present, the mothers have found sanctuary in Managua’s Metropolitan Cathedral, a little further from the jail where their children are being held.
Azahalea Solis, a representative of civil society in the Civic Alliance, assured that such harassment of the family members of the detained and the missing “is one more sample of the cruel and inhumane treatment that the citizens are receiving.”
“It’s incredible how abusive they are, and it’s one more piece of the criminal state in which we’re living in this country,” she argued.
The technical team from MESENI) the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights special follow-up mechanism for Nicaragua, has visited the women to hear their complaints.