Spain Offers Freed Nicaraguans Citizenship; Bishop Who Stayed is Jailed
MADRID/MANAGUA, Nicaragua —
The Spanish government offered citizenship to more than 200 Nicaraguan political prisoners who were freed and flown to the United States on Thursday, Spain’s top diplomat said Friday.
Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares made the announcement to Servimedia news agency, following the surprise release of 222 Nicaraguan prisoners later expelled to the United States.
After their release, lawmakers loyal to authoritarian President Daniel Ortega voted to strip them of their Nicaraguan citizenship, which could thwart plans to return home someday.
But since it requires a constitutional change, a second vote is needed, likely not until 2024.
In the interview, Albares hailed Ortega’s decision to free his jailed critics, many of them prominent opposition politicians, journalists and religious figures.
One of Ortega’s critics, Catholic Bishop Rolando Alvarez was sentenced on Friday to more than 26 years prison by a Nicaraguan court.
Alvarez was convicted on charges of undermining national integrity and spreading false news, and during Friday’s court hearing it was also announced that he would be fined and stripped of his Nicaraguan citizenship.
Last August, police arrested Alvarez, bishop of the Matagalpa diocese, after dislodging him from church property where he had barricaded himself for several weeks along with other priests.
Alvarez was included in the political prisoner release but refused to board the plane destined for Dulles International Airport near Washington.
Spanish authorities will contact the 222 prisoners, who were allowed into the United States under a temporary humanitarian visa, so they can formally apply for citizenship.
Several opposition presidential candidates were among the released political prisoners, including several who sought to challenge Ortega in a 2021 election only to be arrested and detained in an unprecedented dragnet and criminalizing of political dissent.
Most international observers declared the 2021 vote a sham.
On Thursday, Ortega described the prisoner release as a push to expel criminals who sought to harm Nicaragua, while the United States referred to the move as a “constructive step” that could lead to further dialogue between Washington and Managua.
Prominent Nicaraguan cultural figures were quick to praise Spain’s offer.
In a post on Twitter, renowned novelist and essayist Sergio Ramirez who decades ago served as Ortega’s vice president, described it as a “beautiful gesture,” adding that those released “will have a homeland as long as Nicaragua does not recover its freedom and democracy.”
Published on 2023-02-10