Guillermo Blandon, parish priest of Santa Lucia Church in Boaco, was in Jerusalem, a religious heritage full of meanings for Jews, Christians and Muslims, when he was told that his mother Velia Gomez had passed away.
It was his second loss in a week. Blandon mourned the death of the Jesuit priest Raul Solorzano, who was important in his priestly vocation, five days earlier. The third piece of bad news came when he was in Miami, Florida, ready to return to Nicaragua and he found out that he would not be able to do so.
The airline informed him on September 26 that Daniel Ortega’s forbade him to return. “I went to Jerusalem and now I am being crucified by those in my homeland, denying me entry to my country. I am living the passion of (Christ) in this way. God gives me strength, has given me a lot of peace and tranquility,” said Blandon via telephone, who denies that priests are committing crimes in Nicaragua as the regime says, “or offenses to sovereignty or anything.”
For the priest, the Catholic Church, the priests in exile, or those who are forcibly imprisoned as the Bishop of Matagalpa Rolando Alvarez, are also living the passion of Jesus Christ, who went up to Jerusalem “to die for the redemption of all men.”
“It shocked me, it caught me by surprise, and I was staggered. This life-changing event that I must go through. To leave my homeland, my family, my people, my parish, my warm weather. All of that to live in a country that is not mine,” acknowledge the priest, who informed his bishop and is now waiting for the Church to decide what his destiny will be.
According to the priest, the trip to the Holy Land was a gift from his family that has a special meaning for him, because he should have done it in 2018, at the time of his 25th anniversary of priesthood, a time to meditate and reaffirm his faith. In that year, however, citizen protests against the regime of Daniel Ortega broke out, then the pandemic followed in 2020 and until now he was able to travel.
“Until now that it was a little bit calmer from Covid-19, because in Nicaragua we have not had tranquility since 2018, so I decided to make my journey. I went via Miami where I have relatives, I came here and then traveled to the Holy Land,” he said.
More than a dozen Nicaraguans banished by Ortega and Murillo
In recent months, a dozen Nicaraguans have been victims of exile like Blandon. There are also members of civil society and the university community such as the vice president of the Central American University (UCA), Jorge Huete, who was banned from returning after a working-trip to Argentina.
The former Jesuit president of the UCA, Jose Alberto Idiaquez, was also unable to return home to Nicaragua last July, when he was in Mexico attending to health problems, because the authorities would not renew his passport.
This is a retaliation, because the UCA opened up its facilities to students who were persecuted by police and paramilitaries during the 2018 protests. A reprisal which also includes its exclusion from the National Council of Universities (CNU) and the cancellation of its share of the 6% constitutional percentage to universities, with which it financed student scholarships.
The expulsion of Nicaraguans by orders of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo also includes intellectuals, activists, and other citizens, without any official explanation.
Feminist sociologist Maria Teresa Blandon received the news on July 1. She was returning from participating in a conference on population and development of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) when she made a stopover in San Salvador. There she was informed of her new situation.
“Life is disrupted: from looking for a place to live, not knowing for how long, in addition to the indignation, there is a load of uncertainty, of not knowing how you are going to reorganize yourself,” explains Blandon, founder of the banned Central American program La Corriente and a dissenting voice of the Ortega Murillo regime.
On the same day Maria Teresa Blandon was banished, the dictatorship did the same to priest Juan de Dios Garcia, vicar of the Santo Cristo de Esquipulas church, located at in Managua. Bishop Alvarez himself took shelter there at the end of May, when he was besieged for five days by the Police who continued to pursue him, sieged him in the Dioceses of Matagalpa from August 4 to 19 until they stormed the Curia and forcibly locked him under house arrest in the residence where his parents also live, in Managua.
“A lot of energy is invested in finding a minimally safe space to place yourself in a new scenario; to resort to support networks that not everyone has. If you have them, probably it would be less traumatic, and you will reorganize your life. But evidently, that is not what happens with most people, who have been forced to leave the country or who have not been allowed to enter,” added Blandon.
HRW: Nicaragua is not Ortega’s private property
Juan Pappier, senior researcher at the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch (HRW) and who has followed up reports of human rights violations in Nicaragua, said Ortega continues to violate the freedoms of Nicaraguans.
“Every person has the human right to return to their country of origin. It is time for Ortega to understand that Nicaragua is not his private property, but the country of Nicaraguans,” Pappier stated.
According to the HRW website, the excessive concentration of power in the Executive has allowed abuses to be committed against critics with absolute impunity.
Among the banished Nicaraguans are: Anexa Cunningham, member of a UN mechanism of experts on the rights of indigenous people; lawyer Francisco Omar Gutierrez, defender of priest Leonardo Urbina, condemned by the Ortega justice system; Doctor Joaquin Solis Piura and his wife, and writer Mario Urtecho.
Nicaraguans residing abroad have also not been allowed to enter the country: Rosalia Miller, Felicia Medina, Tifani Roberts and Lester Aleman, the latter father of the young political prisoner with the same name.
Banishment violates constitutional rights
Vilma Nunez, president of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), maintains that the government measure violates the Nicaraguan Constitution, regarding the right of citizens to mobilize anywhere in the country.
Nunez says that it also abuses the rights enshrined in the international covenants of civil and political rights, instruments recognized by the State of Nicaragua such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and other international instruments.
Nuñez states that the legal situation in which each expatriate is left, upon learning of the State’s decision, depends on the place where they are stranded and the migratory relationship of that country with Nicaraguans.
For example, she mentioned that if they remain in the United States where depending on the type of visa they could have certain mobility and the possibility of requesting asylum. Or if they go to Central America, there are three countries, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala where they can move with their Nicaraguan identity card.
“It cannot be said that they are undocumented. Their passport has not been taken away. They have a valid document; thus, their identity has not been taken away. What they must realize is that this decision (the decision of the State) exposes them in the country where it happens (banishment). Their case will depend on the policies of those countries where they are left stranded, due to the unlimited cruelty of this Government,” explained Nunez.
Nuñez further notes that the role played by Nicaraguan authorities at all levels is questionable, both the Immigration and Foreigners Office and the Interior Ministry, the institution to which the notices are sent by e-mail notifying airlines.
Nunez affirms that these are decisions come from the presidential bunker of El Carmen, in reference to the also residence of the presidential family. Both Father Guillermo Blandon, as well as the feminist Maria Teresa Blandon and other victims, the State’s decision poses the challenge of continuing with their work and their lives, despite the fact that they were forcibly separated from Nicaragua.