The government of Nicaragua recently released more than 200 political prisoners who were arrested for opposing the rule of President Daniel Ortega. These individuals, including journalists, activists, political leaders, business leaders, civil society representatives, and students, were arrested prior to the 2021 elections. Judge Octavio Rothschuh Andino announced their release and stated that some of them are already on their way to the United States.
US State Department spokesperson, Ned Price, confirmed that the release of these prisoners was a unilateral decision made by the Nicaraguan government. The individuals who left Nicaragua “voluntarily consented to travel” and only two individuals chose not to travel to the US. Upon arrival in the US, they will be granted humanitarian parole for two years, allowing them to stay in the country and apply for asylum if they wish.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken welcomed the release of the political prisoners, including one American citizen, as a constructive step towards addressing human rights abuses in Nicaragua. Blinken stated that this is a product of American diplomacy and the US will continue to support the people of Nicaragua.
Images from Dulles International Airport show tearful scenes as activists and supporters greeted the arrivals. Political activist Felix Maradiaga, one of the freed prisoners, stated that he only realized what was happening when he was on the plane. Juan S. Chamorro, another freed political prisoner and pre-candidate in the 2021 presidential elections, said that he was shocked but overwhelmed by the opportunity to see his family again.
Ned Price confirmed that this release was not part of a larger bargain and that sanctions and restrictions on Nicaragua remain in place. The US State Department spokesperson emphasized that it was the Nicaraguan government’s decision to allow these individuals to travel to the US.