Nicaragua frees 222 political prisoners, sends them to U.S.

The authoritarian authorities of Nicaragua freed 222 political prisoners Thursday in a deal negotiated with the United States, in keeping with Biden administration officers aware of the settlement.

The former prisoners, a few of whom have spent years in jail, have been anticipated to land at Washington’s Dulles International Airport late Thursday morning, the officers stated.

It was a shocking flip of occasions for Nicaragua, a small Central American nation that has been focused with extreme financial sanctions by the United States and for the final 16 years has been dominated by Daniel Ortega, a former leftist Sandinista revolutionary who helped overthrow the nation’s right-wing dictatorship within the Nineteen Seventies.

Ortega first served as president within the Nineteen Eighties throughout a bloody civil conflict that pitted Sandinista fighters towards U.S.-backed Contra rebels. He was voted out within the 1990 presidential election however returned to energy in 2007. By rigging elections, he has remained president ever since, turning into the longest-serving chief in Latin America.

After violently suppressing pro-democracy protests in 2018, Ortega and his spouse, Vice President Rosario Murillo, tightened their grip on energy, imprisoning a whole lot of journalists, political candidates and enterprise and non secular leaders. Those jailed lately embrace lots of Ortega’s former leftist comrades, together with Dora María Téllez, a onetime Sandanista commander who publicly accused Ortega of betraying their goals of a socialist utopia and coming to resemble the dictator they helped overthrow.

Nicaraguan authorities stand guard outdoors of a tv station shuttered by the federal government in 2018.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Many have been jailed at Managua’s notorious El Chipote jail, the place, in keeping with some prisoners who have been launched, torture was widespread and meals was scant.

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The U.S. officers stated that whereas they negotiated the take care of high Nicaraguan officers — and supplied transportation for the prisoners to Washington — the United States supplied nothing concrete in return for his or her launch.

But Nicaragua, which has been crippled by U.S. sanctions, has in latest months appeared open to a potential rapprochement with the United States, which it has lengthy vilified.

Lucía Pineda

Lucía Pineda, director of the 100% Noticias information channel, fled Nicaragua after being jailed for six months.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

News of the prisoners’ launch was greeted with shock and pleasure by many Nicaraguans and people who have gone into exile lately.

Dolly Mora, a 30-year-old chief of the Nicaraguan University Alliance, a political youth motion, stated that on Wednesday night time she started listening to reviews that political inmates have been being moved out of assorted prisons.

She didn’t sleep that night time, suspecting that the prisoners can be freed quickly. On Thursday morning, she obtained affirmation that a big group was being flown to the United States. It consists of 4 individuals from the Nicaragua University Alliance who had been sentenced to years in jail, together with for violating a sweeping treason legislation, she stated.

“We are happy that our friends and all the prisoners are going to be free,” stated Mora, who left Nicaragua final 12 months and resides within the United States.

A banners sports an image of Daniel Ortega, who has led Nicaragua since 2007.

A banner sports activities a picture of Daniel Ortega, who has led Nicaragua since 2007.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

From overseas, Mora’s motion has sought to boost consideration to Nicaragua’s political prisoners and the federal government’s crackdown towards opposition figures. They promoted the hashtag #MiCandidatoEstaPreso, or “my candidate is incarcerated,” on social media earlier than the nation’s presidential elections in November, when potential challengers to longtime President Daniel Ortega have been arrested below a brand new treason legislation.

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She added: “This is not over. They freed the prisoners but there’s still the fight for freedom in Nicaragua.”

Linthicum and Miller reported from Mexico City. Wilkinson reported from Washington.