Opponents released and exiled from Nicaragua denounced on Friday that the government of Daniel Ortega has suspended their pension payments, a measure that was also applied to exiles.
“I was eliminated from the system” of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS), he told Associated Press the sociologist and economist Irving Larios, who for being a critic of Ortega was imprisoned from September 2021 until his expulsion to the United States along with 221 other opponents on February 9.
Larios, 63 years old and who received a monthly pension equivalent to almost 800 dollars, described the measure as “perversity” since some twenty of the exiled ex-prisoners are people over 60 years of age.
Also, to the 222 were stripped of their Nicaraguan nationality through a judicial resolution disclosed after his surprise deportation.
“This is one more example of perversity… an irrational and illegal act,” added Larios, who was prosecuted for “conspiracy” against the State and sentenced to 13 years in prison.
Also confirmed the suspension of her retirement was the mythical ex-guerrilla Dora María Téllez, 67, who three decades ago separated from the Sandinista Front party led by Ortega. Tellez is another of the 222 opponents released and sent to the United States.
“This pension is not a gift, it is a right because we work and contribute to our social security all our lives,” Téllez told a Nicaraguan digital media outlet. “The INSS will have to pay us every penny it is taking from us,” he protested.
Others released with pensions already withheld include three former ministers and a former diplomat who asked not to be named for fear of government reprisals against their families in Nicaragua.
The INSS has not officially confirmed the withholding of pensions for opponents.
The suspension of pensions would also be applied to several of the 94 opponents whose nationality was stripped by the government on February 15, the day it also announced the confiscation of their assets for considering them “traitors to the homeland.”
Among those stripped of their citizenship and subject to expropriation are the well-known writers Sergio Ramírez and Gioconda Belli.
Former Sandinista commander Mónica Baltodano, a 68-year-old former opposition lawmaker, went into exile in Costa Rica with her husband Julio López, 77, who was a senior Sandinista party official in the 1980s. Both were stripped of their pensions.
“They no longer deposited our retirement pension this month,” Baltodano confirmed to PA. “It is a brutal, arbitrary and absolutely illegal measure, because retirement is a right that protects the elderly from defenselessness, unemployment and hunger”, she said.
The right to social security and old-age pensions is protected by the Nicaraguan constitution, which in one of its articles obliges the State to provide this service “without exclusions”, as it is considered an “acquired right”.
consulted by PA Lawyer Juan Carlos Arce, from the “Nicaragua Nunca Más” Human Rights Collective, described the suspension of retirement as “an unlawful action” because it “violates the principle of progressivity of economic and social rights and the principle of acquired rights.”
“This leaves older adults completely unprotected and ratifies a State policy based on punishing those who are considered opponents,” said Arce. “The Nicaraguan regime makes it clear that it has no limits in violence against opponents,” she added.
He stressed that the measure also violates the Social Security Law and the San Salvador Protocol, which establishes that everyone has the right to social security.
After the withdrawal of Nicaraguan nationality from the opponents, the governments of Spain, Chile, Argentina, Colombia and Mexico offered to grant them citizenship. The novelist Ramírez, who already has Spanish nationality, also accepted Colombian and Ecuadorian nationality, while the poet Belli accepted Chilean nationality.
Nicaragua has been experiencing a serious political crisis since April 2018 when Ortega repressed a social revolt with police and paramilitaries. The government action left 355 dead, more than 2,000 injured and at least 100,000 exiled, according to human rights organizations.