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My Father Was a Vocal Critic of Nicaragua’s President. Now He’s a Political Prisoner


My father, Francisco Aguirre-Sacasa, turned 77 this month. Usually, my total household would collect someplace within the States to rejoice his birthday with a late-summer cookout, a sheet cake and ice cream. This yr, although, there wasn’t a cookout. It wasn’t a type of uncommon, treasured instances after we’re all collectively in the identical yard, reminiscing, catching up on one another’s lives.

As a substitute, we spent the day praying for my father’s launch. He’s a political prisoner, combating for his life, imprisoned 50-plus days in the past for being a vocal critic of Nicaragua’s Macbeth-like President-despot, Daniel Ortega, and his Woman Macbeth-like spouse–and Vice-president—Rosario Murillo.
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In late July I used to be about to board a flight from New York to Los Angeles, the place I work as a tv author and producer, when my sister known as me with the information. Our mother and father had been driving to Costa Rica to take a flight to Washington, D.C., the place my father was scheduled to have hip-replacement surgical procedure. They’d been stopped on the border and interrogated by immigration officers. Photos of their automotive have been taken, and my father’s passport was confiscated. The officers instructed my mother if she wished to proceed with their deliberate journey, she might, however my father would not be becoming a member of her. My mother determined to remain.

Learn Extra: ‘They Assume They Can Silence Us.’ How Nicaragua is Waging a Battle on Journalists

Whereas driving again to Managua, they have been pulled over by the nationwide police, who arrested my father and kidnapped him. When my mother bought again to their home, it was being ransacked by males with machine weapons.

An hour later, the navy police issued a press release saying that my father was being investigated as an enemy of the state. He’s not that. He’s a husband, a father and a grandfather. A e book lover, a film lover and a horse lover. A graduate of Georgetown College and Harvard Legislation College. A proud citizen of Nicaragua, who served as Nicaragua’s ambassador to the USA, then as Nicaragua’s international minister. The previous couple of years, my father’s labored as a journalist and political pundit, commenting on Nicaragua’s state of affairs, together with Ortega’s dictatorship. That’s what made him a goal. His opinions have gotten him in bother earlier than—there have been warnings, threats, a brief detention, however nothing to this extent.

My dad is one in all many individuals who’ve been arrested by Ortega’s police within the months main as much as Nicaragua’s election in November. Working with much less subtlety than Hiram Lodge, the mustache-twirling archvillain of my present Riverdale, Ortega has been going after his opponents one after the other. Those that would possibly’ve run in opposition to him, those that have been brazenly supporting different candidates, those that have been calling for a free and honest election—college students, politicians, journalists, businesspeople—they’ve been incarcerated below a bogus regulation particularly designed by Ortega to quash his detractors.

Our dad is being saved in Managua, in a infamous jail often known as El Chipote. Our mom goes there each day, to attempt to ship meals, water and medication to him. She is often denied. She’s been allowed one brief go to with my father, which was recorded. My father had misplaced weight; he was somber, confused. He didn’t know what was happening on the earth or along with his case. He instructed her to cease attempting to ship him something, since nothing was attending to him.

Two days after my mom visited him, my dad was formally accused of committing acts of conspiracy and treason. Now that he’s been charged, his incarceration is indefinite. Since then, we’ve heard disturbing tales popping out of El Chipote: Of the way it’s freezing at evening; of how the lights in cells are saved on 24-7 to disorient the prisoners; of the way it’s infested with mosquitoes; of prisoners being starved; of COVID-19 spreading by way of the jail’s inhabitants.

I’m not a political individual. After I was rising up, Nicaragua and its troubles have been issues my mother and father debated with different adults in the lounge, whereas I learn comedian books and paperback horror novels in my bed room. It was an unfolding story on the CBS Night Information with Dan Reasonably, which we watched as a household, earlier than turning (extra fortunately) to Jeopardy!

The previous couple of years, when my dad would e-mail me his newest political suppose piece, I’m ashamed to confess that I usually solely skimmed it. Since his arrest, I’ve been lacking him acutely—I miss our conversations, our arguments. So I’ve gone again by way of my e-mails and skim each single one in all his articles, again and again. And although I hate that it’s taken his unlawful imprisonment to get me up to now, I now extra clearly perceive what he’s been combating for all these years.

It’s easy: My father needs Nicaragua to be a free, democratic nation. He believes Nicaraguans ought to be capable of elect a consultant authorities, to protest once they disagree with that authorities, and most of all, to have the ability to lead full, noble lives with out terror or oppression. These usually are not excessive beliefs. Making such statements shouldn’t lead to detention or disappearance. But right here we’re—and there he’s, in jail, his each human proper denied.

What can we do? Our choices are restricted. However we’ve chosen to proceed beating my father’s drum. So my sister, mom, brother and I—and my father’s allies, within the U.S. and Nicaragua—are asking for assist. A way more forceful and coordinated response from the U.S., the U.Ok., the E.U. and Canada is required to safe the rapid and unconditional launch of all political prisoners—and to name free of charge elections in November. It’s not too late to cease Nicaragua from sliding off a cliff.

Earlier this yr, in March, whereas my dad was visiting me, I requested him if he thought he’d dwell out the remainder of his days in Nicaragua, if he’d ever transfer again to the States to be nearer to us, nearer to his grandchildren. He thought of my query and replied: “Nicely, I used to be born in Nicaragua. And there may be nonetheless a lot work to be carried out, I believe I’ll be buried there, too.”

Which may be true, however not anytime quickly. And never like this.