A man with chains in his hands and a Nicaraguan flag attends a mass for the release of political prisoners Jorge Torres (efe)
The wife, daughter and son-in-law of Nicaraguan opposition leader Javier Álvarez were convicted on January 18 by the courts of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo of crimes of “conspiracy” and “spreading false news” on social networks. The sentences sought by the prosecutor against Jeannine Horvilleur Cuadra, Ana Carolina Álvarez Horvilleur and Félix Roiz Sotomayor were eight years for her and ten years for him. This family was the first to be convicted because they were relatives of a politically persecuted woman. This is a new repressive modus operandi of the Sandinista regime: the imprisonment of relatives of political exiles.
Since before November 2022, when Ortega and Murillo held unrivaled municipal elections in which the Sandinistas consolidated the one-party regime by winning all of the country’s 153 municipalities, police began pursuing and jailing relatives of political exiles from abroad to continue “the dictatorship ” criticize.
The mother, daughter and son-in-law were arrested on September 13, 2022 when a police convoy looking for Javier Álvarez arrived. Officials did not find him because he had previously fled into exile in Costa Rica for fear of arrest. However, police first arrested Jeannine Horvilleur Cuadra and Ana Carolina Álvarez Horvilleur, both Nicaraguan and French nationals. Then the officers went to catch Félix Roiz.
The family was transferred to the Directorate of Legal Aid (DAJ), better known as El Chipote prison, where human rights organizations denounce that political prisoners are treated cruelly and inhumanely, even tortured. The family was locked up in El Chipote for four months until they were finally brought before a regime-dependent judge on October 1 last year. What worries Javier Álvarez the most is the health of his wife Jeannine, a cancer survivor whose medical condition is “vulnerable”. Even so, El Chipote officials did not receive the medication that the 63-year-old woman takes daily.
“It is barbarism that the regime is committing. It is about the most complete primitivism in terms of human rights and respect for people. We are reaching an unsustainable level of aggression,” Álvarez said after learning about the arrest of his relatives. “I urge you to release my wife, my daughter and my son-in-law. If they have anything against me, they should look for me,” he insisted.
Álvarez later revealed that the police offered to release his family if he turned himself in at El Chipote. “I will not return to Nicaragua because my life in the country is in danger. There is hate against me that I don’t know where it comes from because I have never appeared in the media and made statements, nor have I signed any statements. I admit that I am an opponent. I don’t like this regime. I want a free Nicaragua,” he said.
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Another similar case is that of Andrea Margarita del Carmen, director of PEN programs in Nicaragua: on September 14, 2022 the police were looking for her but when they could not find her, they took her son Gabriel Alfonso López, a 34- year-old, firm-old auditor. He was charged with the political crime of “undermining national integrity”. Andrea Margarita reported that the police sent her messages from her son’s cell phone, which she ignored. “When my family asked about him in El Chipote, the police told them they were interested in me and that he would only be released if he reported me,” he said.
In exile in Costa Rica, the leader of the political party UNAMOS – formerly known as the Sandinista Renewal Movement – Dulce Porras fears for her brother, who has been accused of the “crime of conspiracy” and “spreading false news”. The persecution of family members of exiles has created a climate of self-censorship in Costa Rica and elsewhere. There is great fear that the Ortega-Murillo regime will imprison relatives who have nothing to do with political issues and who have no active opposition.
“This is already a pattern of arbitrary and unconstitutional police action. The purpose of arresting relatives of those persecuted is not only to intimidate them, but to force them to provide information for the arrest of the wanted person,” said Gonzalo Carrión, a human rights defender in exile in Costa Rica. “This new pattern confirms the practices of increased terrorism against various social sectors in the country,” added lawyer and founder of the Nicaragua human rights collective Nunca Más.
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