Nicaragua stripped 222 political prisoners of their nationality, who were deported to the United States and described as “traitors to the homeland” in a sentence read by a court in Managua.
Almost simultaneously with the expatriation of prisoners, the country’s National Assembly, controlled by supporters of dictator Daniel Ortega, approved in the first vote a law reforming Article 21 of the Constitution to provide for the loss of nationality of anyone considered a “traitor of the homeland”.
This reform, according to the Constitution, would need to go through a special commission and a second appraisal to be approved and would enter into force after publication in the Official Gazette. Soon after the first vote, however, a law to “regulate the loss of nationality” was also approved by the Assembly, according to the institution’s news portal. According to the text, the effectiveness is immediate and does not need to go through other formalities or official publications.
Used in this case against fellow citizens, deportation is a resource for the return of regular or irregular migrants to their country of origin. There are currently around 250 opponents in jail in the country, which became autocratized after demonstrations against the pension reform proposed by the Ortega regime in 2018. During the protests, at least 355 people were killed, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) .
Authorities with knowledge of the matter told the American newspaper The New York Times that the prisoners were released by Managua in an attempt to rapprochement with Washington, which has sanctioned the regime and Ortega’s family in the face of the upsurge of repression of opponents in recent years. .
On condition of anonymity, these authorities said that 224 prisoners were offered the possibility of seeking refuge in the United States – two of them reportedly refused the proposal.
The US State Department said that the country “facilitated the transport” of the prisoners and ensured that those freed “left Nicaragua” voluntarily and will be able to live for two years in the US.
“The release of these individuals, one of them a US citizen, by the government of Nicaragua marks a constructive step in speaking out about human rights abuses in the country and opens the door to deepening dialogue between the US and Nicaragua,” said Antony Blinken, head of the US Foreign Ministry. .
“[Os sentenciados] violated the legal and constitutional order for different offenses, attacking the State of Nicaragua and Nicaraguan society, harming the supreme interest of the nation,” said Judge Octavio Rothschuh.
Lawyer and former Nicaraguan deputy Enrique Sáenz described the measure as “nonsense”, since the reform did not go through a special commission nor was it discussed in two votes, as mandated by the Constitution. “It’s a joke from a legal point of view,” he told Sheet, adding that the penalty could not be used in the case of the now ex-prisoners. “According to any constitution in the world, including that of Nicaragua, no penalty can be applied retroactively.”
“The deputies were so desperate that they forgot to amend this article of the Constitution: ‘No citizen may be deprived of their nationality. The quality of Nicaraguan is not lost by acquiring another nationality’.”‘
In his analysis, the maneuver intends to remove the activists’ Nicaraguan passport, making national mobilization more difficult. It also sends the message that opponents will not be able to participate in the country’s political life and console supporters of the regime, who may interpret the release of prisoners as a sign of weakness.
Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramírez, who had been Ortega’s deputy in his first term in the late 1980s and is now in exile in Spain, celebrated the deportation, which he called “freedom”.
“Today is a great day for the fight for freedom in Nicaragua, as so many wrongfully convicted or prosecuted prisoners are released from prisons where they never should have been. They go into exile, but they go to freedom,” he wrote on his Twitter profile. .
In the late 1970s, Ortega was one of the leaders of the Sandinista Revolution that overthrew the Somoza dictatorship and participated in the first junta that led the country after the fall of the dynasty, between 1979 and 1990, when he peacefully left power. He returned to the Presidency in 2007 and since then has tried to make the opposition unfeasible.
In the 2021 elections, when he was reappointed to office for the fourth consecutive time, the seven opposition candidates were arrested, accused of money laundering and treason to the homeland.
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