Nicaragua: dictatorship releases and banishes 222 political prisoners

From the early hours of yesterday, the news circulated rapidly. A charter flight from Managua to Washington was carrying a contingent of 222 political prisoners in Nicaragua. The fact politically shocked the Central American reality and caused mixed feelings and logical joy in the exile organizations. With this article, and still processing data and information we give a preliminary view of this event that marks a turning point in the Nicaraguan situation.

By Mariano Rosa, leader of the MST Argentina and Coordinator of the International Commission for the Life and Freedom of Political Prisoners in Nicaragua for the LIS and Mohamet Pacheco, militant of Alternativa Anticapitalista (LIS-Nicaragua).

As the information was confirmed, the expectation grew among the organizations of family members and Nicaraguan exiles. Finally, when the list of 222 prisoners was announced, who were flying to the US to be released there, the excitement and joy were enormous. For hours, the analysis had to wait, because the tightened hearts after almost 5 years of hard suffering, were the dominant subject in the dialogues, virtual meetings, and broken calls. Under the figure of “banishment for treason to the motherland”, the sinister dictatorship of the Ortega-Murillo clan, simulated a press announcement (in its official media, which are all of them), trying to give some political-legal coverage to what finally is a response to the international isolation and the pressure of the systematically mobilized exiled. The names that we were able to read once the final list was known, had indeed, Dora Maria Tellez, Suyen Barahona, Yader Parajon, Lester Aleman, Felix Madariaga, Oscar Rene Vargas and so many other figures of the diverse field of opposition to the regime. There remain 38 political prisoners, that are hostages in the prison country, whose immediate freedom is now an urgent task of the international movement for life, real political freedom and the end of the criminal dictatorship in Nicaragua.

Mariano Rosa of the Argentine MST and Coordinator of the ISL-led Commissión for the Life and Liberty of Political Prisoners

Unilateral decision? Diplomatic victory? Total victory? Discussing the contradictions

Logically, the conditions in which the 222 political prisoners were released from prison have different edges to analyze, contradictory and that we need to address collectively.

On the one hand, the concrete fact of saving their lives, of leaving those dungeons of torture and confinement, is a step forward that strengthens the struggle for the freedom of all prisoners and against the regime. From this point of view, it is a triumph that invigorates relatives, exile collectives and the international movement of which we are a part.

But we cannot overlook the fact that both the dictatorship and the gringo imperialism waited for the absence of mobilization and independent international initiatives such as, for example, the International Commission that we encouraged a few months ago and the Caravan with which we reached the border at Peñas Blancas to face this negotiation and free the prisoners. They did the impossible to prevent the release of the prisoners from strengthening an anti-regime political-social pole, because they panic at the prospect of a resurgence of mobilization in Nicaragua, with a current of resistance strengthened from a critical leftist position. The Ortega-Murillo clan and the White House are thinking of the country and the region in the coming years and aspire to cohabit without changing the capitalist business matrix. That is the key to the issue.

In this context, one must understand the decision to banish and cancel the nationality of the 222 freed prisoners, as a maneuver intended to give a sobering internal signal with this rigged and medieval reprisal. At the same time, to conceal the weakness implied by having to free most of its political hostages. 

In parallel, the negotiation with the State Department tried to give a sign of “goodwill” to gringo imperialism given Nicaragua’s geopolitical corner and economic dependence on the US.

According to the New York Times, the Biden administration considers this measure by Ortega-Murillo a “diplomatic victory” of its foreign policy in the region, which, on the other hand, is presented as a “unilateral decision”, without the mediation of the U.S. embassy in Managua, which is clearly false. Imperialism, trying to appear as a “democratic actor of goodwill” in this whole episode, is betting on strengthening its influence on the future of the opposition to the dictatorship. Obviously, it seeks to position an “anti-Ortega” reference in line with its economic-political interests in the region.

Evidently, the emotion of the families and collectives in exile for the release of the 222 is logical and we share it. At the same time, with these reflections, we try to collaborate with essential debates that we face among all of us who are part of the struggle against the criminal dictatorship.

Neither all-powerful dictatorship nor democratic imperialism: the tireless struggle of families, collectives and international organizations.

The whole Ortega-Murillo orientation is to try to present the event as a “unilateral” demonstration of authority, strength and determination. They need to prevent this obvious concession from encouraging protests and direct actions in Nicaragua itself. That is the double intention of their line of action.

For their part, the White House, by making a pact with the dictatorship, intervene to give themselves prestige in the face of the exiled and to appear as democratic managers of this freedom-banishment. They want to gain influence among the resistance to the dictatorship, to eventually mount an anti-Ortega-Murillo solution, but in line with their own geopolitical interests in the region. Total and absolute imperialist hypocrisy.

Both dictatorship and State Department, devalue the influence of the struggle of the resistance in exile -and even in the hard clandestinity- of relatives, migrant collectives and initiatives such as the International Commission, which precisely to ensure the life and freedom of the political prisoners, arrived in defiant Caravan to the border post of Peñas Blancas in May 2022.

Therefore, the balance of what happened and the careful integral evaluation of all its edges are fundamental to drawing correct conclusions and setting the perspective of a movement against the dictatorship that has to be strengthened from now on, but with the clear delimitation of gringo imperialism and its economic-political aspirations in Nicaragua and all Central America. From our position of militants for the Nicaraguan cause, we make this contribution to the debate on the steps to follow.

For the freedom of those who are missing, to sweep away the dictatorship: we must retake the independent international initiative.

This new political situation in Nicaragua is reviving the exile movement and moralizing relatives and collectives. In a few weeks, it will be 5 years since the April Rebellion of 2018. Beyond the contradictions, the freedom of the 222 is undoubtedly a step forward in the struggle for the freedom of all remaining Ortega-Murillo hostages, and in the strategic task of sweeping away the dictatorship with popular mobilization opening the way to a new stage in the country. A stage of complete reorganization in its economic, social and political matrix, with a power arising from below, without pacts with murderers, with memory and without impunity, without interference from imperialism -especially gringo imperialism- from big businesses and the accomplices of the dictatorship. Our International Socialist League reaffirms its commitment to these fundamental causes: now to resume initiatives in the international arena to continue activating the movement in fact, which we have been building together with the main independent collectives in exile, mainly in Costa Rica. But at the same time, towards a Nicaragua without a false left or new right wing under the tutelage of Washington, it is essential to discuss how to set up a powerful political alternative, from the young activism that aspires to another way out for their country and with the best of the exiled who do not give up. For a Nicaragua and Central America of the peoples: neither of the dictators nor imperialisms.