This week, Berta Valle and Victoria Cárdenas once again traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with policymakers and advocate for the freedom of their husbands, political prisoners Félix Maradiaga and Juan Sebastián Chamorro, and for all 170+ political prisoners in Nicaragua. Félix and Juan Sebastián were arrested by the forces of Ortega regime on June 8, 2021, and were disappeared – held in undisclosed locations without access to their families or lawyers – for 84 days. They were briefly permitted to see family members on August 31 and October 11, but have since been held incommunicado.
While in Washington, Berta and Vicky had a series of constructive meetings, including with Secretary General of the Organization of American States Luis Almagro, National Security Council Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere Juan Gonzalez, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols, and Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ).
The timing of this trip was significant: on Sunday, November 7, Daniel Ortega cemented his dictatorial rule in Nicaragua by declaring himself reelected in presidential «elections» where no opposition candidate was allowed to run. To condemn the Ortega regime’s electoral fraud, Berta and Vicky marched from the Organization of American States to the Embassy of Nicaragua with members of the Nicaraguan diaspora (above). Later that day, they participated in a Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop of Managua Silvio José Baez, beloved by the Nicaraguan people but forced into exile by the Ortega regime. These sham elections have been roundly condemned by the United States, European Union, and governments around the world as illegal and illegitimate. At the OAS General Assembly, happening this week, Canada introduced a resolution which would reject Sunday’s elections as having «no democratic legitimacy.» A vote on the resolution is expected on Friday.
On November 9, Berta and Vicky published an op-ed in the Washington Post rejecting Sunday’s fraudulent elections and urging the international community to act to respond to Ortega’s consolidation of power (included in full below). They were also featured prominently in last week’s episode of CBS 60 Minutes in a segment on the ongoing crisis in Nicaragua.
Said Victoria Cárdenas, «I am grateful for the commitment of the those we met to support us as we fight for the release of our husbands and of all political prisoners. Their solidarity and determination reminds us that we are not in this alone.» Berta Valle added, «We are beginning a new chapter in the journey to restore human rights and democracy to Nicaragua, but we continue with the same conviction. We will not rest until we are reunited with our loved ones.»
We condemn the continued incommunicado detention of Félix Maradiaga and Juan Sebastián Chamorro, who have not been seen since October 11, 2021. Given the inhumane conditions in which they are being held, and their dramatic weight loss of 30-40 pounds since their arrests, we demand an immediate proof of life. We also condemn the Ortega regime’s decision to freeze the judicial processes against them, resulting in their indefinite pre-trial detention. We will continue working tirelessly for the immediate and unconditional release of Félix, Juan Sebastián, and all 170+ political prisoners in Nicaragua.
By Jared Genser