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Nicaragua Releases 91 Political Prisoners Amid Outrage Over Hunger Strike Arrests

Oscar Navarrete
Freed Nicaraguan political prisoners Neyma Hernandez (left) and Ivania Alvarez celebrate their release on Monday in Managua.

Human rights groups say Nicaragua’s authoritarian government has been uncompromisingly brutal toward protesters. But the regime made a more lenient gesture on Monday – if only to help improve its dismal international image.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s government released 91 political prisoners. They included more than a dozen people whose arrests last month were astonishing even for Ortega’s heavy-handed security apparatus.

They’d been jailed as terrorists — for simply delivering water to nine mothers holding a hunger strike inside a church in Masaya, Nicaragua. Those mothers were protesting the imprisonment of their children for protesting against Ortega, who they say has turned Nicaragua into a corrupt dictatorship.

The draconian arrests in Masaya drew international outrage — and prompted the Trump Administration to tighten economic sanctions against the regime. Perhaps feeling the heat, Ortega ordered the large release of prisoners, including prominent student protest leader Amaya Coppens.

Since the anti-Ortega protests began in the spring of 2018, human rights groups say Nicaraguan security forces have killed more than 300 people. They add that some 80 other political prisoners are still languishing in Nicaraguan prisons. Ortega accuses the protesters of taking part in a coup.