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February 16, 2023
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Miguel Mendoza: “They didn’t break me in El Chipote”

Miguel Mendoza: "They didn't break me in El Chipote"

The sports writer and blogger Miguel Mendoza spent 598 days kidnapped by the Ortega regime, in the cells of the El Chipote prison. For months they did not allow her to speak to his wife, and for more than a year and a half she was unable to see her little daughter or communicate with her mother, 91 years old. However, the political express does not hold “any kind of grudge” towards his captors.

“I don’t wish ill on anyone, I am capable of greeting those who captured me, those who took me, and the last words I said to a policeman were, getting off the bus to get on the plane, ‘God bless me you and your family, see you soon,’” Mendoza commented.

The communicator was sentenced to nine years in prison for the alleged crime of “conspiracy to undermine national integrity, to the detriment of the State of Nicaragua.” Today he is part of the 222 political prisoners who were exiled to the United States and illegally stripped of their Nicaraguan nationality.

In an interview with the program TonightMendoza talked about how he lived the days of confinement in El Chipote, the customs with his cellmates and the extensive interrogations to which he was subjected.

“They didn’t break me in El Chipote, in interrogations he always defended the independent pressif one day they take out those recordings they will realize it ”, he stressed.

How are you and how has this first week in freedom been?

Tired, I haven’t slept enough for six days since we left El Chipote, in Managua, but I don’t think my face looks as withered and battered as when we came.

What were your conditions in jail? What did they tell you during the interrogations?

The questions were pretty silly, without much sense; In the first place, who financed me? What if I had received money from abroad? On one occasion they told me that as a journalist I was guilty of publishing negative news, because they said that negative news is bad news and that this made the people of Nicaragua unhappy, that as a journalist I was obliged to publish only positive news; that is, when the government inaugurated a bridge, when they build the stadium. I told them: ‘you are wrong, the press publishes news and it is the people who decide if it is negative or positive’. It is one thing to be told that it is false, another thing is to be told that it is speaking the truth, which is what I did through my social networks.

At first, I was stressed and I disliked the interrogations, but when they stopped taking me, I even needed them because it was the only training or calisthenics to be in dialogue with someone, with the detectives we captured information from the outside world that we did not have; For example, we realized that barbarity, the description of Ortega that he told us after the presidential elections, where he called us the son of a bitch. They didn’t tell me that, they just told me that after what the president said you’re going to spend a lot of time in here.

Some people question why a sportswriter began to comment on politics, human rights violations and the national crisis?

They also told me that during interrogations. I told them: ‘You don’t have a deputy mayor, who is also a sports writer. If it is a crime for a sports writer to give an opinion on sports; So, there are a lot of civil servants who have been sportswriters’. There came a contradiction and that question ended.

Why did I start to express my opinion? Because it is the responsibility of every decent Nicaraguan, committed to justice and democracy, who loves our country, that we should be the voice of those who have not, and emphasize the barbarity that they were being made in the country since 2018.

Mine in the networks became a snowball, which started small and suddenly increased, until it became a source in which I felt that people trusted a lot in what it said.

They imprisoned you for expressing your opinion on social networks, but besides that, was there any reason that they imprisoned you because you belonged to a protest organization or supported a political candidacy?

They insisted a lot on that during the interrogations, what political group did he belong to? What if he had (political) aspirations? What if he was looking for the Ministry of Sports? Things that were funny. I told them that I did not belong to any party, obviously I have my sympathy for some kind of ideological current, but I am neither a militant nor an aspirant to anything, I simply want our country to straighten itself, to return to the democratic path.

They asked me about independent journalism, they asked me about you (CONFIDENTIAL), they asked me about a lot of colleagues who have a lot of impact on the population. They came to tell me that the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation financed me, I told them ‘I didn’t even get a phone recharge from Cristiana (Chamorro Barrios)’.

On one occasion they told me: ‘you were involved in money laundering, defending people who laundered money’; I told them ‘there are some that have channels, go investigate there (in reference to the Ortega Murillo brothers, who own several television channels), not to be investigating someone, who only has a cell phone, who is hanging on a bus, who at a cost puts a phone recharge on his phone’.

After your arrest there was a worldwide mobilization of the international press demanding your freedom, did you notice?

Well, I realize when the visits begin and he begins to tell me, Margine, that every day I am appearing in the newspapers, that there are organizations, that my colleagues from the independent press in Nicaragua, but it is one thing to be told something else it is that you see it, now I come and I am seeing the things that were said about me and they impress me.

They did not break me in El Chipote, in the interrogations I always defended the independent press, if one day they release those recordings they will find out. When they took me to the exhibition, on September 1 (2022), I yelled at the official journalists: ‘Long live freedom of expression, long live free journalism, you will be free too, because you can’t even think.’

From El Chipote, complaints of psychological torture, confinement, mistreatment were received, what was your situation?

The fact that I was not allowed to see my daughter, the fact of having long periods without visitors; 72 days passed from when I was kidnapped to the first visit.

The only thing I read were the recommendations and labels for toothpaste, juices, bottled drinks, and the little bags that contained cookies, seeds, and peanuts. The only times I touched a pencil, in a year and a half, is when I had to sign an agenda, when my visit was over, that’s the only thing I signed, nothing more.

The lack of reading drives you crazy, with some colleagues we used to say ‘I’m forgetting the words, I’m forgetting the names’. It was because of that rhythm that one has when conversing or debating, but when you are stuck in that hole, where you only spend talking about the exercises, about whether the gallopinto is calm, or if today they are going to bring me water or to pass the ensure that my family brought me, or because my medication is not brought to me. Those were the only talks.

From time to time we said that we already repeated stories, anecdotes or jokes. We managed to make a great friendship with everyone. I was with about nine other people, I learned from each one. I think I got a master’s degree in universal history with Don Francisco Aguirre Sacasa, I got a master’s degree in matters of the Peasant Movement with Pedro Mena, and likewise with each one, with Lesther Alemán, Irving Larios and Juan Lorenzo Hollman. The talk was very important, the exercises too.

We pray a lot, we pray the Holy Rosary a lot, in the morning; Divine Mercy, in the afternoon. We made some requests to our Lord, in relation to our departure and the request that we asked of our relatives, I think that we all left very different from how we entered there.

I left without any kind of rancor, I do not wish ill on anyone, I am capable of greeting those who captured me, those who took me, and the last words I said to a policeman were, getting off the bus to get on the plane , ‘God bless you and your family, see you soon.’

Miguel, the same day they were released and exiled, Rosario Murillo said on a national radio and television channel that the children of the politically released prisoners were not to blame. What is your reaction to that statement?

I am not to blame for what they did to me, not only our family. We are not guilty. It is a crazy decision, Well, everything that happened with us is nonsense. I hope that Doña Rosario’s words become that our people will be sure that no one is going to harass them that no one is going to persecute them that they are going to be able to have a normal life.

The United States announced that it will offer you a two-year temporary stay under a humanitarian program. Do you plan to stay in the United States for now?

At the moment, I’m in Nashfield for two weeks with my eldest son, taking a break. Then I would be traveling to Miami, where the World Baseball Classic is going to be held, which I will cover. They told me they had my credentials.

There I will make the decision of where I will settle permanently, my son wants me to be here, there (Miami) I have a sister who is also trying to convince me to stay, I still have not defined what will be the definitive step in this exile, in this expulsion to which they sent me, in which I am neither chicha nor lemonade.

The dictatorship approved a constitutional reform to strip them of their nationality, what do you think about that?

But it is that being Nicaraguan is carried here in the heart, they can never take that away from me; In addition, I am not stopping in this situation because, in any case, being a citizen of Nicaragua, I was not going to be able to return to Nicaragua and this is going to be reversed when everything changes in Nicaragua, which I hope will not happen for a long time.

The Government of Spain offered them nationality, they would consider it or not.

I already applied, I think we all did, then there will come a time when citizenship is approved, and that is where one has to decide whether or not to accept, but for now I have already applied.

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