Nicaraguan exiles see vote as step on Ortega’s road to dictatorship

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As her puerility location was utilized to crippled 1 of the 20th century’s astir storied revolutions, Zoilamérica Ortega Murillo told playmates she was Guatemalan – lest the neighbours observe the precise Nicaraguan conspiracy unfolding adjacent door.

“The small friends I utilized to play shot with came successful to portion h2o erstwhile and wandered into the country wherever the guns were kept,” said the 54-year-old sociologist arsenic she stood extracurricular the peach-coloured villa wherever she lived arsenic a nine-year-old girl.

Ortega Murillo’s clip astatine the Sandinista harmless location successful Costa Rica’s capital, San José, came to an abrupt extremity successful July 1979 erstwhile the revolutionaries who were raising her – her mother, Rosario Murillo, and her guerrilla fellow Daniel Ortega – returned triumphantly to Nicaragua aft helping overthrow the Somoza dictatorship.

Two days aft rebels seized Nicaragua’s capital, Ortega Murillo flew backmost to her grandmother’s location successful Managua connected a subject plane. “We were definite that erstwhile Somoza was gone everything would beryllium different,” she said.

But 4 decades later, things are disturbingly akin and Ortega Murillo is backmost successful exile – 1 of thousands of Nicaraguans who person sought structure successful Costa Rica from different authoritarian regime, this clip led by nary different than her parent and adoptive father.

“This is simply a transgression dictatorship,” she said of Nicaragua’s president and vice-president who volition question different 5 years successful powerfulness this Sunday successful an predetermination the absorption and overmuch of the satellite has called a sham.

The effect of Sunday’s ballot is beyond uncertainty fixed the stunning governmental crackdown that has played retired successful caller months nether Ortega, a one-time revolutionary leader who has governed continuously since being elected successful 2006 and quelled a 2018 student-led uprising with deadly force.

Security forces person jailed virtually each absorption fig who mightiness person challenged the mates and driven dozens of activists, journalists, concern radical – and adjacent aged erstwhile Sandinista allies – from the Central American country.

“Every idiosyncratic who is successful situation is paying for having challenged them successful immoderate way,” said Ortega Murillo, who divided with her parent and stepfather successful 1998 aft accusing Ortega of sexually abusing her arsenic a child.

The couple’s estranged girl suspected her almighty and, galore say, vindictive mother was the driving unit down the repression. “She doesn’t forgive,” she said. “She doesn’t forget.”

Journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, professional  of the authorities  of President Daniel Ortega, listens to question   of a writer  during a quality    league  successful  Managua, Nicaragua December 13, 2019. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
Journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro. Photograph: Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters

Carlos Fernando Chamorro, a salient writer who has 4 relatives presently languishing successful situation oregon location arrest, said the pre-election clampdown was unprecedented, adjacent successful Nicaragua’s turbulent history. “The [opposition] enactment has been wholly decapitated,” said Chamorro, whose sister, Cristiana, was a starring statesmanlike contender and is present confined to her home.

Chamorro fled to San José successful June to debar a akin fate, joining a historical exodus crossed Nicaragua’s confederate and bluish borders. The fig of Nicaraguans caught trying to transverse the US-Mexico borderline soared to much than 50,000 this year, compared with conscionable a mates of 1000 successful 2020, portion much than 35,000 person applied for asylum successful Costa Rica.

San José’s fast-growing diaspora, which has unsettling echoes of the exile assemblage that formed determination during the Somoza family’s convulsive and corrupt four-decade reign, includes Nicaraguans from each walks of life.

Jesús Tefel, a governmental activistic and erstwhile escapade question entrepreneur who supported the failed 2018 rebellion, stole implicit the borderline with his large spouse successful aboriginal July aft 5 weeks hiding successful a Managua harmless house. “It’s astatine times similar this … that you truly consciousness first-hand what repression is for: it’s astir sowing terror,” said the 35-year-old, recalling their march to information nether the screen of darkness.

27 de octubre de 2021, San José, Costa Rica. Doña Yadira Córdoba, exiliada y mamá de Orlando Córdoba, asesinado en 2018 en las protestas contra el gobierno de Nicaragua. Carlos Herrera
Yadira Córdoba, whose lad Orlando Córdoba was killed successful the civic uprising against Daniel Ortega’s authorities successful 2018. ‘They wanted to soundlessness him but they didn’t recognize helium had a parent who would instrumentality up his cry.’ Photograph: Carlos Herrera/The Guardian

Yadira Córdoba, a 48-year-old cleaner, said she had taken formation truthful she could proceed to request justness for her 15-year-old son, Orlando, 1 of more than 300 protesters killed during 2018’s revolt – seemingly by authorities gunmen and paramilitaries.

“I didn’t travel to Costa Rica to marque money. I came truthful I had the state to … guarantee my son’s representation is not forgotten,” Córdoba said during an interrogation successful the dank shack she rents successful downtown San José. “They wanted to soundlessness him but they didn’t recognize helium had a parent who would instrumentality up his cry.”

Córdoba, who sleeps beside a shrine to her dormant child, called Sunday’s predetermination a mockery and a circus successful which she would garbage to instrumentality portion adjacent were she successful Nicaragua.

“Ortega’s nary president – he’s a crook and a murderer. How could I measurement into a polling presumption erstwhile the archetypal happening I’d spot connected the ballot would beryllium a photograph of my son’s killer?” she asked.

Former Sandinistas, including the guerrilla commanders Luis Carrión and Mónica Baltodano, person besides bolted, fearful of joining old comrades specified arsenic Dora María Téllez and Hugo Torres down bars.

Another exiled erstwhile rebel, who asked not to beryllium named, said they feared Nicaragua could beryllium witnessing the commencement of a hereditary dictatorship that would spot Ortega, present 75, effort to manus power of the state to his woman and their children. “It’s truthful precise sad,” the disillusioned erstwhile revolutionary said implicit java successful an upmarket San José hotel. “We gave everything to decision Somoza – and 42 years aboriginal a akin dictatorship appears to beryllium forming.”

Zoilamérica Ortega Murillo, whose allegations Ortega and Murillo reject, said she doubted that would happen, contempt each her disapproval of their “criminal, authoritarian and repressive” acts.

“The dynasty inactive starts and ends with Daniel Ortega,” she predicted, pointing to a deficiency of enactment for her parent and siblings. “This dictatorship won’t past arsenic agelong arsenic the Somoza dictatorship did.”

28 de octubre de 2021, Escazú, Costa Rica. Jesús Tefel, miembro de la Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco, organización opositora al gobierno de Nicaragua, ex preso político y ahora exiliado por su seguridad en Costa Rica. Carlos Herrera
Jesús Tefel: ‘The question of repression was designed to hide the absorption – but the bully happening is they failed.’ Photograph: Carlos Herrera/The Guardian

Tefel was besides bullish, contempt the desolate temper that has engulfed Nicaraguan exiles.

“The question of repression was designed to hide the absorption – but the bully happening is they failed,” helium insisted. “Lots of radical managed to flight and are present present oregon successful the US, reorganizing and regrouping.”

On Sunday, members of Nicaragua’s pulverized absorption volition clasp what they anticipation volition beryllium a immense march done Costa Rica’s mountain-ringed superior successful an effort to task unity.

“We person lived done truthful overmuch that determination is large mistrust betwixt us,” admitted 1 of the organizers, Ana Quirós, a seasoned feminist activistic and erstwhile Sandinista who was stripped of her Nicaraguan nationality and deported for backing the 2018 protests.

“But I’ve ever thought that if there’s 1 happening that we hold on, let’s absorption connected that. Everything other we tin woody with on the way.”

Ortega Murillo urged Nicaraguans to debar fatalism implicit their country’s future. “Three years agone [during the uprising] we said it was the opening of the extremity – and I deliberation that’s right. Only I deliberation we’re nary longer astatine the beginning, but successful the middle,” she claimed.

Daniel Ortega,Rosario MurilloFILE - In this Sept. 5, 2018 record  photo, Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, pb  a rally successful  Managua, Nicaragua. The European Union connected  Monday, Aug. 2, 2021 slapped sanctions connected  Nicaraguan archetypal  woman  and 7  different   elder  officials accused of superior   quality  rights violations oregon  undermining democracy, amid a crackdown connected  absorption   politicians successful  the Central American country. (AP Photo/Alfredo Zuniga, File)
President Daniel Ortega with his vice-president and wife, Rosario Murillo. Photograph: Alfredo Zuniga/AP

As a rainstorm hammered San José’s eastbound suburbs, she stared done the brownish metallic gates of her puerility home, which she was visiting for the archetypal clip since being uprooted by the 1979 revolution. “For maine it’s a transgression scene,” she said of the location wherever she claims a 12-year run of maltreatment began. “I tin consciousness my tummy churn.”

Ortega Murillo hoped her idiosyncratic quest for justness could animate Nicaraguans hoping to escaped themselves of her alleged abuser. In 1998 galore doubted her maltreatment claims conscionable arsenic galore Nicaraguans inactive idolized Ortega when helium returned to powerfulness successful 2006.

Now, Ortega Murillo sensed radical were waking up to the information that “Daniel Ortega was a lie” conscionable arsenic galore skeptics had travel to judge her accusations against him.

Whatever happened connected Sunday, Ortega Murillo believed the repression suggested the couple’s clip successful powerfulness was moving out. “This dictatorship’s foundations are eroding themselves.”

Additional reporting Cindy Regidor