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Pressure in Nicaragua to Sign Life Sentence Petitions

“They told me that the first decapitated body to appear would be mine,” denounced a pregnant woman in rural Nicaragua.

The Farmers’ Movement publicly denounced that Health Ministry personnel were coercing people into signing the government’s petition for life sentences. Members of the Farmer’s Movement in Rio San Juan made this allegation during an interview with Confidencial.  

Since last week, they stated, their members denounced this irregular demand for signatures.  According to complaints, those who seek hospital attention, or attend community health events, are first asked to “support” the petition. Their signatures support the introduction of life imprisonment as a sanction for undefined “hate crimes”. 

One set of denunciations came from residents of the El Dorado III community, in the municipality of San Miguelito. The municipality is located in the department of Rio San Juan, in the far south of Nicaragua. On September 29th, residents say, a health brigade arrived in the zone “supposedly to attend to the entire population.” Every month, such brigades come to the community to examine patients and do ultrasounds.

However, the Farmer’s Movement members noted that as soon as the brigade arrived, they dedicated themselves to passing the petition.  They asked the community members to sign while they were receiving the medical services.

One pregnant woman who lives in El Dorado III stated that she was harassed until she had to leave. She couldn’t even wait for the results of her exam and ultrasound.

“They grabbed me from the line. I had already had the exams and the ultrasound and I was waiting for them to explain the results. A woman there came up to me and told me to sign. When I refused, she asked me to hand over exam papers, saying that she’d talk to me about them afterwards.” The woman complainant asked to remain anonymous to avoid further reprisals.

This citizen declared that the woman demanding her signature then issued such serious threats that she decided to leave.

“She told me that the first headless body to appear would be mine, only because I didn’t sign. She then made some calls, and at that point I became fearful. So I left, just like that, with nothing, without receiving the attention that’s supposedly free and for everyone.”

Those visiting the hospitals are also pressured

Victor Diaz, a territorial leader in Rio San Juan, explained there’s growing pressure to sign the petitions. Such pressure has become “more frequent now” in the hospitals and health centers. “They want to get their laws approved, so they can punish the opposition,” Diaz stated.

He noted that before the brigade came to El Dorado, on September 29, he was already aware of other cases.  Some residents of the Santa Elena community were asked to sign when they went to the public hospital in San Carlos.

“Another community member from the Farmers’ Movement told us of something similar that happened to them. In the third week of September, they brought a seriously ill patient to the hospital. The health personnel told them they had to sign before they could receive health services. So, they signed, because they were bringing in a person with a chronic illness and couldn’t go to another place.”

Diaz believes that the actions of these Health Ministry authorities “violates the right to health and life.” He urged them to stop “utilizing their services to obtain signatures.” “They’re endangering the lives of the rural residents. The rural families usually don’t have money to pay a private clinic.”

The signatures gathered supposedly support efforts to punish murderers, abusers and rapists of women and children with life in prison. Daniel Ortega unveiled this proposed measure during the commemoration of Central American Independence on September 15th. Petitions began circulating in the third week of September. At no time, however, did he specify that its objective was reducing violence against women or the increasingly common femicides.

From that time on, Nicaraguan state employees from the different institutions and public university students have been under pressure. They complain of being obligated to sign the petition supporting the Sandinista Front’s proposal. The government party is seeking to allow life sentences without parole for those they say committed “hate crimes”.

Confidencial report cites workers from the Managua mayor’s office, the Tourism Institute, the Education Ministry and the Custom’s Office. All complain that they were forced to sign the Sandinista Front’s proposal. They did so out of fear for their jobs.  In the majority of the cases, the State employees noted that the papers they were given to sign were blank. There was no exact explanation of what they were signing. They were simply asked to note their first and last names, their ID numbers, and to sign.

Rosario Murillo, Nicaragua’s, first lady, vice president and chief government spokesperson, announced that they’ve collected over 650,000 signatures. Murillo said these support the regime’s request to the Nicaraguan Supreme Court to allow life sentences for “hate crimes”.

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