Spain offers citizenship to freed Nicaragua dissidents

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Spain has decided to offer citizenship to more than 200 political prisoners released by Nicaragua and deported to the United States, the foreign minister said on Friday.

The prisoners, among them Nicaraguan opposition figures and regime critics, were freed by Managua on Thursday and expelled to the United States with the parliament voting to strip them of their nationality.

“The government is offering Spanish nationality to these 222 freed prisoners given the news that the process to declare them stateless has been started,” Jose Manuel Albares told Spanish news agency Servimedia.

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His comments were later confirmed by the ministry.

Albares said his ministry would make contact with the exiles and that the process of granting them citizenship could be completed swiftly through a certificate of naturalization.

Over the years many dissidents from countries in Latin America have found refuge in Madrid. Some but not all have been offered Spanish nationality.

Among those released were journalist and aspiring presidential candidate Cristiana Chamorro and her brother Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, an ex-minister. Both are children of former president Violeta Barrios de Chamorro (1990-1997).

The prisoners’ release was a surprise move by the Central American country’s increasingly authoritarian president, Daniel Ortega.

In ordering their deportation, a judge said they had been declared “traitors to the homeland,” which warranted the suspension of their citizenship rights “for life.”

Shortly afterwards, Nicaraguan lawmakers passed a bill stating that “traitors to the homeland lose their status as Nicaraguan nationals.” It will need a final reading later this year to become law.

Hundreds were jailed in Nicaragua following the 2018 wave of anti-government protests that were met with a brutal crackdown which claimed 355 lives and forced more than 100,000 people into exile.

Ahead of the 2021 elections, dozens of opposition figures were arrested, including seven presidential hopefuls, on grounds of undermining “national integrity.”

Ortega went on to win the vote.

A firebrand Marxist in his youth, Ortega was a former guerrilla in the Sandinista movement who initially took power in 1979.

He was defeated in 1990 elections but returned to power in 2007, and has since engaged in increasingly authoritarian practices, quashing presidential term limits and seizing control of all branches of the state.

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