The US Thursday welcomed 222 released political prisoners from Nicaragua.
The US Department of State heralded their arrival as a “constructive step towards addressing human rights abuses” in Nicaragua. A Biden administration official told the New York Times that officials for Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and US President Joe Biden negotiated the prisoners’ release. The Biden administration negotiated the release of a total of 224 prisoners, but two declined refuge in the US. Ortega’s administration sought nothing in return for the release of the prisoners.
The political prisoners arrived via plane at Dulles Airport in Washington DC on Thursday afternoon. As Nicaraguan supporters awaited the prisoners’ arrival, they chanted out, “Daniel Ortega is going to fall.” Among the prisoners were business leaders, journalists, civil society representatives and students. According to Confidencial, the prisoners were kept in the Modelo and La Esperanza prisons, and some were in prison for as long as two years.
On Wednesday during a state television broadcast, a magistrate from Chamber One of the Managua Court of Appeals declared the release of the prisoners. As part of their release, Ortega’s administration declared the prisoners “traitors” and barred them from ever holding public office in Nicaragua again.
Ortega’s administration has cracked down on political opposition like that presented by the released political prisoners since at least 2018. Since then, international criticism has only increased. Following Ortega’s 2021 reelection, in which he claimed to have won 75 percent of the vote, the EU, US, UK and General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) condemned the election as a “sham.” Ortega has maintained there was no wrongdoing.