Abuse new norm in Nicaragua

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — The 21-year-old university student, nearly two months pregnant, had hoped to escape Nicaragua with her boyfriend, but a police officer on a motorcycle blocked their path as they were getting into taxis with other students to go to a safe house.

Five police trucks loaded with masked and armed men dressed in civilian garb surrounded them. “These are the terrorists who killed our fellow police,” the officer shouted, using President Daniel Ortega’s term for those who have protested against his government since mid-April.

The young couple and their friends joined the ranks of more than 2,000 people arrested in Nicaragua in nearly four months of unrest and official crackdown. At least 400 people are believed to still be held in jails, prisons and police stations, and some consider them political prisoners, the non-governmental Nicaraguan Human Rights Center says.

The others were held for days or weeks incommunicado, brutally interrogated to give up names and threatened with terrorism charges before being released without explanation as Ortega’s government seeks to extinguish the resistance.

“They crushed my fingers, and hit me in the ribs and the stomach,” the pregnant student said.

Last week the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said its monitoring team in Nicaragua found that detainees were abused, not informed of their rights or any charges, and taken into custody without warrants.

The pregnant student was taken to a room and made to stand with her hands spread out on a table. The interrogators began hitting her in the stomach once more, she said, and a female officer cut off half her toenail.

When she again told them she was pregnant, they told her: “The pain is what we feel fighting for the country. You all just want to see the country destroyed. You want to see our commander (Ortega) go.”

Midway through her five-day incarceration she started to bleed. She was interrogated and beaten again. When the students were finally released they were warned to stay out of sight or they would be charged with terrorism.

The next day she went to a hospital, where a doctor told her there was nothing they could do.

“They told me to prepare myself for the news,” she said. “I lost my baby.”