Alvarez (who is also related to Vijil), explained that women political prisoners endure a double hardship – for being women and for being critical of the government.
They are usually kept in isolation and frequently interrogated, mocked and humiliated for their sexual or gender preferences, and for having to abandon their children while in detention, according to Alvarez.
Repression and corruption under Ortega
President Ortega embodies patriarchy, authoritarianism and corruption, the three heads of the Cerberus-like entity that has eaten an entire country. A former military commander and one of the leaders of Nicaragua’s successful Sandinista Revolution – which overthrew the dictatorship of the Somoza family in 1979 – he retaliates against anyone who dares to oppose his rule.
He has dismantled democratic institutions and taken full control of the judiciary, police and military. He has stood for repeated re-elections that have been greenlit by the courts he controls. During anti-government demonstrations in 2018, he ordered the massacre of at least 325 people.
Ortega spouts a left-wing discourse, but is a crucial ally of conservative groups. In 2006, while opposition leader, he personally ordered his party to vote for an absolute ban on abortion, to please the Catholic Church. He won the election that year.
As if this were not enough, Ortega was accused by his step-daughter, Zoilamérica Narváez, of allegedly raping her repeatedly for several years since the age of 11.
In 1998, when Narváez described the ordeal she had gone through, her mother, Rosario Murillo, took her husband’s side and was rewarded with increased political power in his regime. Now she is the vice-president and the government’s spokesperson.
As Jennie Lincoln, senior adviser at the Carter Center, once said, democracy is dead in my country. With opposition candidates excluded from this Sunday’s elections, opposition group the National Coalition has called for people to abstain from voting and to “stay at home”.
Hope despite imprisonment
However, the women who have been arrested still manage to offer a tiny glimmer of hope.
“Being in jail is my contribution to the freedom of Nicaragua,” Ana Margarita Vijil told her sister during one of the two visits she was allowed.
Ana Lucía Alvarez says the women are high-spirited and, in the only two family visits allowed since June, have told their relatives they will resist. “We have found them strong. Even in this situation, they are trying to find ways to resist,” Alvarez said.
Using the hashtag #QueLasLiberen (Set Them Free), feminist groups in Nicaragua and across Latin America are asking for the immediate release of these women and denouncing Sunday’s elections as “a farce”.
"We need to weave webs of support,” Alvarez said. “This fight is for freedom and justice in Nicaragua, and we need the women of the world to raise their voices with us.”
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