Nicaragua: “Turning Off” the Political Prisoners’ Brains


Ortega’s jail keepers forbid reading and writing in the infamous El Chipote

Statement by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights: Like Hitler, they are “failing to recognize human dignity.” Venezuela learned the technique from Cuba, Cuba learned it from Russia, and Nicaragua is now copying Cuba and Venezuela.”

By Octavio Enriquez (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – For over a year and a half, Berta Valle, 39, a former television presenter, has been publicly asking Nicaragua’s police authorities to allow her husband to have a Bible. Her husband, Felix Maradiaga, is a political prisoner who was arbitrarily arrested on June 8, 2021, for the “crime” of aspiring to run for president.

Maradiaga is currently serving his sentence in the maximum security police complex, popularly known as El Chipote. The heavily guarded jail is located in a rural area of the capital city of Managua. Up until now, authorities there have responded to Valle with a resounding “NO!”

The El Chipote jail currently houses 59 political prisoners; like Maradiaga, these prisoners are forbidden to read or write. For the more than 600 days that the earliest political prisoners have been in that jail, none of them have had access to books, or to pencils and paper to write with. Other methods of psychological torture are practiced in that jail as well, including isolation and keeping the prisoners incommunicado. Four of the female political prisoners are still being held in solitary confinement. Prisoners are hindered from speaking with their defense attorneys, kept from sleeping, and exposed to constant interrogations. Medical attention is lacking, and the food is so poor that in Maradiaga’s case, for example, the prisoner lost over 60 pounds during his first year in jail.

The prohibition of reading and writing, added to the abovementioned serious violations, are part of the punishment regimen the Ortega dictatorship has imposed on the prisoners for political motives. These policies are comparable to practices in some totalitarian countries of the Middle East, and also to other authoritarian nations, such as Cuba and Venezuela. Confidencial was able to confirm the aptness of these comparisons through consultations with international human rights specialists.

“This punitive measure has been applied in a number of contexts, sometimes temporarily and sometimes permanently. It’s a problem in many of the Middle Eastern countries, such as Egypt. Keeping the political prisoners from reading (including textbooks for students) or writing is fairly common in places that detain prisoners with no legal basis. It’s not part of the penal system, simply a common practice,” explained a spokesperson from Human Rights Watch.

The prohibition of reading and writing in El Chipote also violates the minimal norms for the treatment of prisoners established by the United Nations as the “Nelson Mandela rules,” in honor of the South African leader who fought apartheid in his country and spent nearly thirty years – from 1963 to 1990 – as a prisoner.

Rules 58 – 64 of this code speak of the prisoners’ right to communication with relatives and friends via correspondence, phone calls and visits. The rules also speak of allowing them periodic access to information, be it through radio, newspapers or special publications, together with access to a library with “instructive and recreational” literature.

Dora Maria Tellez, Daniel Ortega’s former comrade in arms during the struggle against Somoza, is now a political prisoner who is kept doubl

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