While, in Managua, capital of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega was preparing this Monday to swear in a fourth consecutive term as president, in Madrid, Victoria Cárdenas, wife of one of the 170 political prisoners in Nicaragua today – according to data endorsed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights -, raised her voice before the international community to achieve the freedom of her husband. Juan Sebastián Chamorro was imprisoned seven months ago during his participation as a pre-candidate in the presidential elections. Since then, his wife and daughter have had to live in exile in the United States, they cannot visit him and hardly hear from him. “My family has only been able to see him four times. Like him, I am accused of being a traitor to the homeland and if I return to Nicaragua I would run the same risk and fall prey, ”Cárdenas tells EL PAÍS.
With a disjointed voice, the woman recalls the conditions in which her husband was detained at dawn on June 8, 2021. “Eight patrols and more than 40 armed police officers arrived at my house at midnight and took him away. They raided my home for more than four hours and since then I have not been able to see him again ”. He is tormented by his state of health and the conditions of his confinement in the Chipote prison, in which systematic acts of torture have been registered against the prisoners, according to a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the UN presented last September. “He has lost so much weight that my brother-in-law told me that if he walked through the door I would not recognize him.” Although Chamorro has only been able to meet with his lawyer once, his process is suspended and his detention is indefinite, his wife believes in his resilience. “He is resisting with strong morale and spirit because he knows he is innocent, but he is in very fragile condition.”
The woman has poured her life into the cause of her husband and the prisoners of the Ortega government. “In my future there is only freeing my husband. That is my crusade ”. From a hotel on Gran Vía, he prepares for another day of meetings with diplomats, interviews and conferences in which he exposes his situation and advocates for international cooperation in the face of repression in his country. The Nicaraguan government has closed about 20 media outlets in the last decade, according to a report presented last year by the NGO Fundación Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.
Despite the fact that Cárdenas arrived in Spain this Sunday, he has already met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, and several representatives of different NGOs in search of support. “The minister’s message is that Spain is committed to democracy and helping the Nicaraguan people,” he says. There is not much time left in his weekly schedule for rest. Cárdenas has become accustomed to speaking eloquently and concretely, although she is characterized by a soft tone of voice. This Monday afternoon he also presented his case to the local media and some representatives of civil organizations at the Casa de América. In addition, he will be in Brussels and Geneva this week to speak with senior European officials. Before the tragedy of her family, she considered herself a discreet woman and removed from political affairs. However, the accompanying drama has forced her to expose herself publicly. “We need the support of the international community to exert pressure on the Ortega regime,” he emphasizes without pauses.
Cárdenas is not alone. Her case has linked her to Berta Valle, wife of the imprisoned opposition member Félix Madariaga, who was also an opposition candidate. “It was very easy to find support in each other in the midst of suffering, in the face of injustices with our husbands.” The two women have been in a common campaign for months and are almost always together, although Valle has not been able to accompany her on this latest meeting tour due to health problems. Their husbands were arrested just hours apart. Both are accused of “inciting foreign interference in internal affairs, requesting military interventions and organizing to carry out acts of terrorism and destabilization,” according to a note by the Nicaraguan Police, which since May 2021 has arrested more than 40 opponents and activists. Despite the imprisonment of Chamorro and Madariaga and five other candidates in the country’s elections, the elections were held on November 7, leaving Daniel Ortega as the winner, with just 18.5% citizen participation, according to the organization Open Urns. “I would not call today [por ayer] a inauguration, since it was not an election, but an electoral farce, ”denounces Cárdenas, who has spent up to three months without news of her husband.
“Every Nicaraguan who is in the opposition or has a relative in it is threatened and silenced.” Faced with the desire for her daughter to reunite with her father, the woman puts herself before fear of reprisals in Nicaragua. He has gone from shunning the public lens, to becoming a familiar face for the struggle of the prisoners of the Ortega regime, which completed 13 years in a row in power in October of last year. “I have not chosen a political career, but I am a wife and a mother and I have to defend what is correct,” she says convinced, but with tired eyes. She has no date to return home, but she yearns to return to a different country and continue working for human rights after the release of her husband. “I am optimistic. I am hopeful that the political prisoners will be released sooner rather than later. ” In order not to resort to crying, conclude with a phrase to give yourself encouragement. “My husband is detained for wanting a Nicaragua with dignity, justice and freedom. I still hope we make it ”.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.