Photo: Amaru Ruiz with Bianca Jagger and Mónica López Baltodano, an environmental lawyer and daughter of former Sandinista guerrilla commander Mónica Baltodano.

On Saturday, November 6, Amaru Ruiz spoke from Glasgow on the Peace Brigades International webinar on the COP26 summit and environmental rights defenders. To hear his presentation, click here (Ruiz is at the 27:58 mark).

The following day, Ruiz spoke at a rally in London against electoral fraud.

As expected, President Daniel Ortega has retained power following the election held in Nicaragua on Sunday, November 7.

Deutsche Welle reports: “Seven people who could have challenged Ortega in Sunday’s vote are now in prison, along with 32 other opposition figures, following a government crackdown that started in June against opposition parties.”

That article adds that there were no international observers of the election and that foreign media were denied access to cover it.

Le Monde reports that Urnas abiertas, a citizen observatory of the electoral process, documented an abstention rate of 81.5 percent. That article adds: “According to a CID Gallup poll, if they had had a choice, 65 percent of the 4.4 million registered voters would have voted for an opposition candidate, compared to 19 percent for the incumbent.”

Sandinistas in prison

The former Sandinista guerilla commander and later health minister Dora María Téllez was arrested on June 13 and remains in El Chipote Prison.

Another Sandinista leader, Hugo Torres Jiménez, who helped free Ortega from prison in December 1974, was also arrested in June and remains in prison.

Sergio Ramírez Mercado, who first publicly expressed support for the Sandinista guerilla movement in 1977 and later became the country’s vice-president in 1985, announced in October that he would live in exile in Spain.

Téllez, Torres, Ramirez and many others participated in the popular revolution that overthrew the US-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza in July 1979. The US-backed Contra war that followed claimed the lives of more than 30,000 people.

PBI’s first field placement was in September 1983 in Jalapa, Nicaragua close to the Honduran border where US-backed Contra forces were launching attacks. JoLeigh Commandant, who became the first director of PBI’s Toronto-based Central America Project was part of our interposition presence there to help deter hostilities.

Ortega lost the presidency in 1990 but returned to power in 2007.

Shortly afterwards, Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, a supporter of the Sandinistas, said that Ortega led “a deplorable regime.” Another supporter, Portuguese writer José Saramago commented: “Once more a revolution has been betrayed from within.”

Nicaraguans in exile

It is estimated that since 2018 about 100,000 Nicaraguans have been forced into exile, mainly relocating to Spain, the US and Costa Rica.

The BBC reports that the exile community in Costa Rica had called on Nicaraguans to boycott the election because of the irregularities. And Reuters has reported: “Nicaraguans forced to flee across the country’s southern border into Costa Rica expressed a mix of anger, pain, and resignation ahead of Sunday’s election.”

In January 2020, the Peace Brigades International-Nicaragua Project was established in Costa Rica to provide accompaniment, psychosocial support, networking facilitation, and security workshops to Nicaraguan human rights defenders living in exile.

PBI-Nicaragua provides organizational strengthening support to groups representing the student movement, the LGBTIQ+ community, feminist women, women from the Afro-Caribbean region of southern Nicaragua, and the peasant movement.