“Rubén” studied Medicine and specialized in Cuba. That experience allowed him to rub shoulders with militants of the Sandinista party attracted by the spell that Fidel Castro meant for them, calling the continent’s longest-standing dictatorship a revolution. For this reason, the ideological attachment to the left was not strange in the life of the doctor. After all, since he was a child, his grandparents also taught him that he should vote for Daniel Ortega. However, in April 2018, when the first bodies of murdered young opponents in Estelí, north of Nicaragua, were dragged into the streets near his home, a disagreement was born in him that became irreversible when the Ortega massacre spread, leaving behind more than 355 dead.
His attitude put “Rubén” in the eye of the paramilitary groups led by Pedro “The Honduran”, A former Army major who led the capture of this city in 1993, when Nicaragua had not finished pacifying itself after the ten troubled years of the first Sandinista government. They knew everything about his life, he had been the object of espionage: where he worked, who he related to, who were his relatives.
Despite the obvious risk that this information represented in the wrong hands, “Rubén” always remained in protest. When they forced him to attend counter-marches organized by the ruling party – like thousands of public employees – to try to counter the effect of the massive rallies, he would grab two blue and white flags and put them on his car.
The Nicaraguan flag was its symbol of resistance, which later became a subversive sign for the dictatorship, which even imprisoned the merchants who sold them.
In the midst of the so-called “April Rebellion”, “Rubén” saved patients and rescued another, practically stealing him from a hospital care center to hand him over to his relatives, thereby internally challenging the doctors loyal to Ortega, affiliated the white union FETSALUD, who denied care to citizens and opponents injured in the protests.
They were hard moments. Several relatives sought out “Rubén” to implore him to help them with their relatives in the Estelí medical center, and later the regime also focused on repressing doctors like him, who treated them without political distinction. According to the organism Human Rights Watch (HRW), 135 doctors and health workers from various hospitals were fired in retaliation until August 2018.
Having become a target of Ortega, he decided that he should leave Nicaragua to protect his integrity.
The trigger for his departure was a call. He listened to a friend who told him he had to leave and in less than twenty-four hours he moved to the border with Honduras with no other plan than to breathe another air.
Three years later, more than 355 murdered and 2,000 wounded registered as victims of repression by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and with a country imprisoned by impunity, “Rubén” says, from the United States, that the migration restrictions of Ortega, which without justifications prevent citizens, businessmen, former state employees and active public servants from leaving, were already a done since 2018, although then they were only aimed at certain opponents. There is a “credible fear of information leakage”, he estimates.
“In Venezuela, colonels, ministers, and senior figures began to flee, who gave all the information. The sanctions were so harsh that (Nicolás) Maduro has almost everything blocked. If Daniel (Ortega) loses all his information, all his accounts are blocked. The only damage that matters to him is economic and that is what they are taking care of “, assesses” Rubén. “
Prohibition of speaking to officials
The doctor claims to know personally the situations of legislators to whom the president of the Assembly, Gustavo Porras, one of Ortega’s main operators and Vice President Rosario Murillo, directly threatened to take care of what they said.
In November 2018, the economist Ligia Gómez, a former official of the Central Bank of Nicaragua and former political secretary of the FSLN in the institution, revealed the orders issued by the Vice Presidency to attack the protesters who demanded an end to the repression and the resignation of Ortega.
“The orders that we received from Fidel Moreno in the meeting that took place the next day were: Let’s go with everything. We are not going to let the revolution be stolen from us. There is nothing to discuss here, nothing to say, you have to comply, ”Gómez said then, in an interview with the journalist Carlos F. Chamorro, on the program This week.
In the eighties, the first Sandinista government had famous defectors such as Edén Pastora, who led the taking of the National Palace in 1978 and then went to fight with the Contra from Costa Rica, to later return to Ortega and die as one of his allies. . Another famous case was that of the commander Roger Miranda, whom the then head of the Army, Humberto Ortega, the president’s brother, accused of allowing himself to be prostituted by the United States, after he took several military secrets.
As of 2018, several public employees – at different levels – have had to live under the rules of political violence imposed by the Executive: a justice system controlled at all levels by the party, which imprisons people dozens of citizens, opponents, civic, political and business leaders, and consolidates a de facto police state that violates citizen freedoms.
“Obviously not all the people, below, agreed. Many people out of fear do not speak ”, explains“ Rubén ”. In the weeks leading up to November 7, public employees reported that they were victims of pressure from the State to vote for Ortega.
This atmosphere of tension intensified in the electoral context, but it has been part of the life of public employees in any part of the country for years. In Matagalpa, a neighboring department to Dr. “Rubén’s” Estelí, the courts of justice were made up of some religious people, who later devoted themselves to defending Ortega.
“There were women within the Judiciary who used to go around inviting retreats. All that was put aside out of fanaticism. The murders hurt me. That was what broke our souls and we turned to the streets when we saw so much cruelty “, says” María “, a former official was fired in 2019.
Political violence: paramilitary judges
“María” worked in that state power in Matagalpa for six years. They always looked at her as a subversive. In fact, in her bag she used to carry two Nicaraguan flags, ready to take them out when possible.
There he met the support of the judicial apparatus for the caudillo, the same one who denounced the former magistrate Rafael Solís when he went into exile in Costa Rica, dissatisfied with a system that he defined as “an absolute monarchy of two kings,” referring to Ortega and Murillo.
“In the Judicial Power, judges were known to lead paramilitaries, who traveled to Jinotega to operate against citizens. There were judges that one had a good image of them, but then they were forced to demonstrate their loyalty to the party. It was unusual violence. For example, they would approach me behind my back and I would hear all kinds of threats from people that I never imagined were violent, ”says“ María ”.
One of the most notable cases of a judge, promoted for his position as a paramilitary, is that of Otoniel Aráuz Tórrez, who was a substitute judge in San Ramón, a Matagalpine community, and was denounced for shooting at a group of protesters.
The last hours of “María”, as an employee in the Judiciary, were preceded by her questions on social networks, of which the vice president of the Supreme Court of Justice was informed Marvin aguilar, the person who leads the government party within the institution and whom the United States sanctioned for being part of that repressive structure.
For “María”, the recent immigration restrictions on officials close to the regime show that they are “scared to death”, because there is a lack of loyalty within Ortega, which has begun to feel the impact of the sanctions of the international community before the human rights violations. “María” insists that they must be dismayed within the FSLN, because they are being harmed by the actions of their leaders and it is foreseeable that there will be more discontent.
“Many of our persecutors in the judicial complex, fierce Sandinistas who were dedicated to creating memes against the officials of the Judiciary who supported the marches, we know that some of them are already here in the United States,” he denounced without specifying names. .
Hostages of the ruling party
Both “Rubén” and “María” agree in their testimonies that the majority of people in the public sector remain with the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) because they are hostages of the ruling party, although there are some — there are fewer and fewer— who believe in the Executive for a matter of nostalgia for the years of the revolution. Others, to keep their job or simply in the interest of making or keeping a profit.
For years, “Nathan” worked for convenience in the legal digest area of the National Assembly. There he learned first-hand about the blackmailing carried out by Porras on state workers, whom he threatened to desist from lawsuits against this power of the State. He went into exile in 2020, a year after it was discovered that he accompanied the 2018 protests.
Unknown even provided videos in which he appeared supporting opponents. They sent for him. First they demoted him and wanted to send him to a corner of this power of the State. Then they ordered him to resign. The threats against his integrity and that of his family continued and then he had to leave like thousands of citizens who opted for exile.
“Nathan” sold off his assets, and unlike “Rubén” and “María”, he left for Europe. “They came to besiege us, they called us from private numbers, they told us until they were going to kill our son. We did everything super stealthy to get out. We were detained at the airport, but they let us out at that moment. Now from what I see that is impossible … The presidential couple is insane, “he ventures.
For “Nathan”, the checkered history of Nicaragua can be summarized with this idea: “The country did not collapse in 2018, it did so since corruption at all levels was implemented as a system, since the possibility of elect a president, not with the majority of votes of the citizenry, but with a minority. And, since the constitutional figure of non-reelection was eliminated, which meant the prolongation of the power of the one in command. That has cost the blood of thousands of Nicaraguans in the past. “
“You cannot leave the country”
“Mariela” recalls that her boss in the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) told her that she could not leave before the voting on November 7.
“How can you think? We cannot lose your vote and that would be frowned upon by superiors ”, he remembers telling him.
He convinced her to try to travel to the United States after the voting. However, days later he told him: “No, no, there are no permits to travel anywhere, they may take your passport at the airport.”
Although she believes that it is a violation of her right to request vacations, her boss insisted that “it may be frowned upon.”
For “Mariela”, the instructions her boss gave her are a clear warning “of something someone has told her”.
“I know that he is interfering in my private life, because what I do on my days off should not interfere in my work space, but we have confidence and he tells me to avoid being fired, because my position is trustworthy,” he explains. .
He also says that he has had information that there are several officials, and even children of state workers, who have been prevented from leaving the country. “We do not know why,” he admits, “but we know that they are afraid that we will go into exile and that shows the discomfort, or that we will reveal some type of information on the functioning of sensitive institutions.”