(CNN Spanish) — Former Nicaraguan presidential candidate Juan Sebastián Chamorro was reunited with his family in the United States last week, after the Daniel Ortega regime expelled at least 222 prisoners to that country. “Free” and “exiled”, in his own words, Chamorro spoke with Fernando del Rincón in Conclusions about his experience in prison for more than 20 months, the separation from his family and what he called the ” prolonged isolation”.
“I was in a cell measuring 5 meters by 5 meters during the 20 months that I was caged,” Chamorro recounted, recalling how, together with other prisoners, he sought ways to cope with prison. “One element that many of us found was doing a daily routine and telling ourselves every day ‘one day at a time, one day at a time’, doing an exercise routine, doing a prayer break routine and trying to keep a routine so that we won’t be tormented by thoughts and find ourselves active despite being in a cell,” he added.
“What I have experienced I do not wish on anyone, the level of isolation,” said the former candidate “I was arrested on June 8, 2021, leaving my wife at the door of the house with more than 80 officers, not I don’t know how many. In the end, I heard her scream, it was the last image and sound I had of her and I didn’t hear anything more about her until August 31 of the same year, when my sister told me that she was already safe in the United States. United together with my daughter. So this is an extremely painful, extremely traumatic experience,” he shared.
After his arrest in 2021, Chamorro was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2022 for alleged conspiracy. The politician shared with Fernando del Rincón that prison was always among the risks that he evaluated as part of his work. But “unfortunately the dictatorship was merciless, merciless against the pre-candidates, against all of us, in an action that we did not imagine would be so massive or so long. Obviously, we considered jail as an option, but we did not think it would to be for so long,” he added.
The former candidate emphasized the “prolonged isolation, that lack of communication that we suffer”, which he described as “torture”. “It was torture, not only for those of us who were inside, but especially for the relatives who were outside. This is psychological torture. Isolation treatment for long periods of time in a small, solitary cell is also a form of mistreatment and degrading treatment. Fortunately, I was never in a punishment cell,” he said.
Chamorro is the nephew of the assassinated journalist Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, who was the husband of Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, president of Nicaragua between 1990 and 1997.
When asked if what he lived in prison scared him, Juan Sebastián Chamorro replied: “Not at all. I am very aware of the words of Dr. Pedro Joaquín Chamorro who told us in the family environment that everyone is the owner of their own fear. That is, each person must manage it according to what they may have. And in this case I think that in the family they have run, I think sometimes too many, very low levels of fear that can even lead you to be reckless. But fear? No.”
His cousin, Cristiana Chamorro, also a pre-candidate, was also arrested in 2021 and released last week.
Juan Sebastián Chamorro said that they were “the least informed” of the Ortega government’s decision to expel opponents from the country.
“We were taken from our cells and put on a plane, so we don’t know how the backstage was,” he explained.
The accusations of the Nicaraguan Prosecutor’s Office to Chamorro
Chamorro, like Félix Maradiaga, was investigated because the Prosecutor’s Office claimed to have “strong indications that they have attacked Nicaraguan society and the rights of the people”, crimes established in the so-called “Law for the Defense of the Rights of the People to Independence, Sovereignty and Self-determination for Peace”.
The law was approved by Parliament in December 2020 and prohibits Nicaraguans “who lead or finance a coup d’état, alter the constitutional order, incite foreign interference and promote terrorist acts” from running for popularly elected office.
Based on that law, the prosecution said that Chamorro “has allegedly carried out acts that undermine the independence, sovereignty and self-determination of Nicaragua and that he has publicly incited foreign interference in internal affairs, proposing or managing economic, commercial blockades and financial operations against the country and its institutions and has demanded, praised and celebrated the imposition of sanctions against the State of Nicaragua and its citizens”.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said on several occasions that the prosecuted opponents are part of a network that channeled funds to carry out destabilization activities in the country.
Chamorro has always rejected these accusations.
With information from Fernando del Rincón, Julián Zamora and Marlon Sorto.