“It is a revenge by the regime against all peasants,” says Henry Ruiz, exiled in Costa Rica.
Ortega Intensifies Persecution of Nicaraguan Farmers Movement
Six rural leaders are imprisoned for alleged organized crime, terrorism, murder and other crimes; several more are exiled in Costa Rican or in hiding.
The regime of Daniel Ortega and his wife and Vice President Rosario Murillo has increased the political persecution against the peasant movement, which since four years before the social upheaval of last April 18th, had challenge it with at least a hundred demonstrations against the concession of the interoceanic channel.
At least six peasant leaders, among them the current coordinator of the National Council in Defense of Our Lake, Land and Sovereignty, Medardo Mairena, are imprisoned and are accused of alleged organized crime, terrorism, murder and other crimes, in processes that human rights organizations identify as full of vices and illegalities.
The Ortega dictatorship has captured five of the 15 leaders that make up the National Council. While of the other ten, five are in exile in Costa Rica and the rest remain in hiding in Nicaragua.
Mairena and the treasurer of the Council, Pedro Mena, were the first peasant leaders to be captured by the National Police. They have also jailed the board members of the National Council: Lenner Fonseca and Ronald Henriquez, and the local leader Victor Manuel Diaz. The farmer and member of the Council, Freddy Navas, who was hiding in a safe house in a neighborhood of the capital, was also captured last weekend, and is now accused of terrorism and other fabricated crimes.
From Costa Rica, the secretary of the National Council, Henry Ruiz, told Confidencial that his decision to go into exile was due to the persecution and repression that the regime is directing against the demonstrators who oppose his government. The arrests of Mairena, Mena and other leaders, warned of the possible capture of the rest of leaders. However, he stated that in the country there are other leaders that continue working for the liberation of Nicaragua.
“What Ortega has done is something that we cannot accept. Although he comes from a rural family, he has attacked us indiscriminately. We know that it is a revenge by the regime against all the peasants because it had been the only credible movement that has influenced the masses, which has not allowed and will not allow itself to be manipulated by any political party. The link between peasants and students, youths and business sector, has not been to their liking, and that is why they are getting even,” stated Ruiz.
The Police presented Navas on November 22 and accused him of murder, organized crime, kidnapping, very serious injuries, assault, illegal possession of firearms and obstruction of public services. Yadira Torres Bermudez, wife of the peasant leader, said that her husband’s only crime is to belong to the Peasant Movement and to protest against the Ortega Murillo regime.
Strengthening ties in Costa Rica
In Costa Rica, the exiled peasants say they continue working on strengthening ties with student leaders, and of other organizations that also had to flee from the persecution of the regime. Ruiz emphasized that the objective is to return to the country because their relatives are there. He pointed out that they reject the call for peace and reconciliation that Rosario Murillo wants to make into law, because “it cannot promote this when there are two murderers in power.”
“One of the plans is to return to Nicaragua. We are clear that Costa Rica is not our homeland and the Government of Nicaragua knows that it is stealing our freedom. That is why we are obliged to return to Nicaragua. We, the 30,000 refugees, will return and in one caravan because that is our homeland and we are going to reclaim it because we have the right,” expressed Ruiz.
The peasant leader said that they had the opportunity to speak with the relatives of the political prisoners and they have related the complicated situation they suffer in the cells of “El Chipote” or “La Modelo.” He insisted that the goal of all Nicaraguans who are in Costa Rica is to strengthen the unity of the groups and return to Nicaragua to get Ortega out of power.
Four exiled peasant leaders
The other face of the peasant leadership, and ex-Coordinator of the National Council, Francisca Ramirez, has been forced to go into exile in Costa Rica, where she has coincided with other peasants.
Francisca Ramirez: She is the image of the Peasant Movement. During the most violent months of the repression of the regime of Daniel Ortega, she was very active and stood her ground with her companions in the erecting of the roadblocks throughout the country. She went into exile in Costa Rica a month ago. She left her farms and all her belongings in La Fonseca, Nueva Guinea.
Juanita Juarez: A native of Moyogalpa, Ometepe, in Rivas. She was the first Deputy Coordinator of the Peasant Movement. She is also exiled in Costa Rica.
Elva Montiel: She lived in El Jicaro, municipality of the department of Nueva Segovia. She is the second Deputy Coordinator of the Peasant Movement. Likewise, she is exiled in Costa Rica.
Henry Ruiz: He lived in Ometepe. He denounced the repression by the regime at the regional level. He went into exile in Costa Rica. He is the current secretary of the Peasant Movement.
In Nicaragua, five peasant leaders still remain who are part of the current National Council, and are hidden in different safe houses. Their names are not revealed in order not to compromise their physical integrity or that of their relatives and acquaintances