Opinion: My father is in prison in Nicaragua. His fate could depend on his upcoming presidential election.

Every Sunday night, I would call my father, a part-time horse breeder and political expert in Nicaragua, who would give me his analysis of the week’s events, followed by a simple question: “Did you vote yet?” Then he would say, “This is probably the most important choice of your life.” And it was at that time.

Now, an even more crucial election for me and my ancestral country is happening in Nicaragua this weekend, and most of the people in the United States are not following it. The anxiety I experienced last year has given way to utter dread as my family’s homeland prepares to elect its next president. When it comes to the question of who will win, the result is a foregone conclusion.

Nicaragua has regressed to a dictatorship led by President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. They are ready to win a fourth term because they have jailed seven opposition candidates. There are a few other names on the presidential ballot, but they are straw candidates approved by Ortega and Murillo to make this bogus election appear legitimate to the world. In addition, the Ortega administration has imprisoned more than 140 people who have been considered a direct threat to his corrupt regime.

You may be wondering why I, an American citizen living in Los Angeles, am afraid of what will happen in Nicaragua on November 7. Well, the fate of my 77-year-old father, who was detained more than 100 days ago by the Nicaraguan army. the police are hanging by a thread. He was accused of being an “enemy of the state”. My father’s “crime”? Speak out against Ortega and Murillo.

In the last 100 days, my mom has seen him twice, briefly. It is not going well. Between his two visits, he had lost 40 pounds. He described being subjected to daily, endless and useless questioning. He said he gets one meal a day: a plate of leftover rice and beans. His dirty, bug-infested cell is boiling during the day and freezing at night. You are not receiving your medication. And, most recently, his request for a copy of the Bible was denied.

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He is my dad, so of course I am deeply involved. But why should other Americans care too?

As a neighbor of the United States, Nicaragua must be a trusted ally and business partner. Instead, it is a police state that oppresses its citizens and aligns with Russia. (In October, Ortega recognized Russian President Vladimir Putin for providing security assistance to defend Nicaragua’s “sovereignty.” This came just three months after two of Ortega’s sons went on a field trip. Of summer. get together with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.) Ortega and Murillo, who have been in power for the last 14 years, have no intention of resigning from him. They seem hell-bent on establishing a dynastic government, as the Somoza family had in Nicaragua for more than 40 years, which, ironically, Ortega helped topple in the late 1970s.

Even more ironic: Ortega was once imprisoned and tortured in a previous incarnation of the “El Chipote” prison, where his current political enemies languish. This is really a case where the bullied becomes a bully. Or, in the case of Ortega, the populist revolutionary becomes a ruthless oppressor. In 1984 he was elected president. In 1990, he lost his candidacy for reelection to Violeta Chamorro.

In 2006, he was re-elected and has held onto the presidency ever since. (After decades of living in the United States, observing these political machinations from afar, my father and mother moved back to Nicaragua in 2000).

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On this occasion, Ortega and Murillio have rewritten the Constitution to prolong their rule and this control of power has allowed them to persecute law-abiding citizens. In 2018, more than 300 people (many of them students) were murdered, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, by protesting censorship, repression and proposals for changes to the Nicaraguan pension system.
The United States and other countries have been exerting moderate pressure on Ortega and Murillo, wringing hands as injustice and bloodshed swept through Nicaragua, but the despotic couple have ignored all of their pleas, warnings, and sanctions. They have a planwin at all costs“And they stick to it.”
Something that could make them falter is the REBORN Act, which was approved in the US House of Representatives on Wednesday with strong bipartisan support. The measure, now awaiting the signature of President Joe Biden, will curb international loans to Nicaragua (and thus hit the Ortegas where it hurts: their bank accounts). Some worry that the law that will soon be enacted could negatively affect the poor, struggling and fearful people of Nicaragua more than Ortega and Murillo. But it has become clear that diplomacy and targeted sanctions are not helping to improve the lives of Nicaraguans.
The fight for a democratic Nicaragua, which gives its citizens the opportunity to prosper and enjoy the rights that are denied them, has to take priority. In 2016, Ortega and Murillo allegedly bought $ 80 million worth of Russian military equipment, including tanks. Is this what we want at the top of America’s doorstep? Ortega and his henchmen has to be stopped. They must be held accountable for the crimes they have committed. And, on November 7, when they “win” the elections, their leadership must be considered illegitimate by the international community.

As for my father and the other political prisoners, we, their families, are waiting for election day with a mixture of fear and hope. Rumor has it that the regime’s paranoia will subside after the elections, and the prisoners will be released or placed under house arrest, all better options. But it’s hard to believe this happens.

Most likely, without further action by the United States, nothing will change after the elections. And our fight to liberate our homeland will continue under the radar, until the powers that be, do something …Really do something: shake Ortega’s dominance over the country. The stakes in choosing this weekend for my family are clear. But all those who believe in freedom, democracy and the preservation of human rights should be attentive to what will happen this Sunday in Nicaragua, and the days and weeks that follow.


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