Ex-guerrilla's daughter accuses Nicaragua of kidnapping father

Ten days ago Victor Hugo Tinoco was detained, accused of plotting against the Nicaraguan government alongside 18 other opposition figures, in an episode his daughter says is part of ongoing “state terrorism.”

Cristian Tinoco’s father fought side by side Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega against the country’s former dictatorship, but now he has found himself caught in the crosshairs of a law that critics say can be used to attack those that speak out against Ortega’s ruling regime.

For many, the detentions amount to kidnapping for political motives.

On June 13, “my father left home with my siblings. They were going to a shopping center,” Cristian Tinoco told AFP.

“When he left the shopping center he was immediately kidnapped. Ten policemen in balaclavas violently put him in a van.”

Nicaragua’s authoritarian government has cracked down on opposition figures recently, with just five months to go until presidential elections in which Ortega is widely expected to seek a fourth consecutive term in office.

Since June 2, five potential presidential candidates have been detained.

Among those are former Sandinista guerrilla fighters, and even a banker, all for inciting “foreign interference” as part of the international sanctions applied against Ortega and his inner circle.

And now others are being detained, too.

Three days after Cristian’s father’s arrest, police came to search his house.

“Instead of ringing the bell, they banged on the door… my mother opened the door and they entered,” said 40-year-old Cristian, who is suffering from cancer.

“They opened the drawers and put document after document on the bed to look over every piece of paper. They took away documents, my dad’s passport, laptop, tablet. They checked the mattresses,” she said.

– Former ambassador –

As a guerrilla in the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), Victor Hugo Tinoco was a close ally of Ortega’s when he came to power in 1979 as Anastasio Somoza Debayle was overthrown and fled into exile, only to be assassinated in Paraguay the next year.

Tinoco was appointed Nicaragua’s ambassador to the United Nations, and in 1981 returned to the country as deputy foreign minister.

“He had a fundamental role in the (1989) peace accords between the Sandinista government and the Contras,” said Cristian.

The Contras were various US-backed right-wing rebel groups.

Ortega stood for reelection in 1990 but lost to Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.

He was defeated again by Arnoldo Aleman in 1996 and Enrique Bolanos in 2001. 

“My father suggested they should change the face of whoever went for the presidency in the party… that day he was expelled,” Cristian recalled.

Tinoco himself had aspirations of standing for the presidency, his daughter added.

After leaving the FSLN he joined the Sandinista Renovation Movement alongside fellow ex-guerrilla Dora Maria Tellez, herself recently detained.

From 2006-11, Tinoco was an opposition deputy.

– ‘My father fought to free the country’ –

Tinoco was a student in a Catholic seminary until he was 20, and became involved in community social activities under the tutelage of progressive priests.

He went to university to study medicine, where he joined the Revolutionary Student Front (FER), one of the FSLN’s university branches.

He joined the FSLN in 1973 and took part in the occupation of cities in the 1978 rebellion.

“My father fought alongside (the Sandinistas) to liberate our country from a dictator and now Daniel Ortega has become a dictator who, for me, is worse than Anastasio Somoza because of the kidnappings going on right now,” said Cristian Tinoco.

“It’s really terrible, we’re experiencing state terrorism in Nicaragua.

“It’s honestly paradoxical and very painful because from our childhood (my siblings and I) were considered Sandinistas, the Sandinista Front is in our hearts.

“But, for me, the Front is no longer what it was originally, it’s been kidnapped by Daniel Ortega. And in the party they do what the Ortega-Murillo family says,” she said, alluding to the president’s wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.


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