European Parliament Delegates Visit Nicaragua: A Story in Tweets and Videos (Part 1)

Members of the European Parliament visit La Esperanza Women’s Prison, Tipitapa, Nicaragua (Jan 2019)

When a delegation from the European Parliament approached Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo (OrMu) for permission to visit Nicaragua, the two co-dictators said no because some of the members of the delegation had said uttered “threatening or disrespectful statements” against OrMu. A few days later, the European Council did, in fact, issue a statement condemning OrMu’s repressive tactics against civil society. The statement concluded with this ominous warning:

The Council underlines its readiness to use all its policy instruments to contribute to a peaceful negotiated way out of the current crisis and react to further deterioration of human rights and rule of law.

OrMu retreated. Eleven members of the European Parliament (MEPs) arrived on Wednesday, January 23 to meet with “representatives of the Government, the opposition, civil society and the church, as well as journalists and students”.

List of members taking part in the delegation

  1. Ramón Jáuregui (S&D, ES), head of the delegation
  2. Nikos Androulakis (S&D, EL)
  3. Joëlle Bergeron (EFDD, FR)
  4. Mark Demesmaeker (ECR, BE)
  5. Mireille D´Ornano (EFDD, FR)
  6. José Inácio Faria (EPP, PT)
  7. Ana Gomes (S&D, PT)
  8. Stelios Kouloglou (GUE/NGL, EL)
  9. Gabriel Mato (EPP, ES)
  10. Javier Nart (ALDE, ES)
  11. José Ignacio Salafranca (EPP, ES)

Visits like this one are not without precedent. However, there was something very different in regards to the access MEPs were granted. They were allowed to keep and use their phones throughout the visit. MEP Ana Gomes from Portugal certainly made use of this rare privilege, and though several of her impressions were shared after the end of the visit, she provided an unfiltered audio-visual record of her four days in Managua. Her tweets start innocuously enough, with an image of the front page of La Prensa, which she captioned in Portuguese. “The mission of the European Parliament has arrived in Managua. This the front page of a newspaper”, she writes.

Gomes continued tweeting images from meetings she attended and buildings she visited.

Gomes’ tweets switch tone after the end of the visit, when she began sharing her unfiltered impressions. For example, she posted this series of tweets, documenting the strong police and paramilitary presence in Managua. “It struck me there were very few people in the streets, differently from what I saw some years ago”, she writes.

Then, she started addressing Ortega directly

Gomes is not diplomatic at all in this tweet.  Usually, photos like this one will be accompanied by a simple caption describing who was at the meeting. Not this time. Gomes wrote “Outside luxurious nature. Inside, it smelled like a mortuary.”

However, the most dramatic portion of MEP Gomes’ account of the trip are the videos she took during the delegates’ visit to La Esperanza Women’s prison. She released those videos via YouTube and Twitter. The first two videos show a group of political prisoners answering questions from behind bars (translations are mine):

MEP: How long is your sentence

Prisoner 1: I received a sentence of 51 years.

MEP: How many crimes were you accused of?

Prisoner 1: Six

MEP: What are they?

Prisoner 2: They won’t even let us make phone calls. They won’t let us contact our families

Prisoner 1: Inaudible..

MEP: How many months have you been here?

Prisoner 1: Seven months

MEP: Can your family come see you?

Prisoner 1: Every 21 days

Prisoner: They let us out today because you are here

Female MEP (presumably Gomes): And how long have you been here?

Group of prisoners: inaudible

Prisoner (with glasses): We are 15 political prisoners

Gomes: In this hall?

Prisoner: Yes

Prisoner 2: There is a 55-year old woman with us. She has lupus. She’s been here for a month, and she has not received any treatment. She is alive by the grace, by the grace [of God].

Gomes: and you are here for common crimes, or …

Prisoner 1: We are political prisoners

Other prisoners: We are political prisoners. Terrorists, like they call us

Prisoner 1: We’re charged with terrorism. We are political prisoners.

Amalya Coppens: We are segregated from the other prisoners.

Gomes filmed prisoner Olesia Muñoz, from Niquinohomo. Olesia and her sister Tania Muñoz were taken to prison in August, for their support for protesters at the tranques, the barricades that protesters built all over Nicaragua, to pressure the dictatorship into negotiating. Olesia Muñoz was charged with terrorism, organized crime, among other charges. (Translated transcript below)


Muñoz: They’ve sentenced us to 30 years of prison. Fifteen days before the paramilitaries entered Niquinohomo, my family and I provided shelter [to protesters], and the paramilitaries came in [to town] with orders to kill. The order was to kill.

[I am here] simply because I have a leadership role in the church. I am a member of the Catholic Church. The Nicaraguan Catholic Church is very strong. It has power, just like it has power world wide. My populism [popular leadership] derives from religion.

I am a music teacher. I have achieved things with music, with great choirs.

The situation in Nicaragua, when you see a people taking to the streets and supporting the tranques [barricades]… [when you see everyone], I rose up too, with my flag, and because I have a following among the people, that made them [OrMu and their supporters] delirious, that the people rose up, and that [I] had a following, and that all of Nicaragua spoke with one voice to demand Daniel Ortega’s exit.

When they came to my house, they bombed and machine gunned my entire house. I was inside. And then, when they were outside trying to force open the gate at gunpoint, I was able to run into a storage room inside the house, and because the storage room was full of stuff, I was able to hide and they were not able to find me.

They tore everything apart. They took everything. They took my audio gear, my musical instruments, everything. They took everything, but they could not find me.

I spent eight days inside that storage room, without food or water, and in the dark.


Ana Margarita Vijil [Former president of the Sandinista Renovation Movement, MRS], I greet you. I want to tell you to keep moving forward with the people of Nicaragua. Keep on fighting. Don’t give up.

Us, even in jail, even while suffering illnesses and everything else, we stand strong. Don’t accept a negotiation. The blood of our heroes cannot be forgotten. Fight to the end, because we are still resisting even from prison. Viva Nicaragua Libre! [Long live a free Nicaragua]

Another prisoner recorded by Gomes was Irlanda Jerez. Jerez, a dentist turned small business owner at the Mercado Oriental in Managua, organized and led merchants in protests against the dictatorship. Jerez was arrested on July 18, allegedly for fraud. Jerez explained that she had been sentenced without trial, after being “kidnapped […] by a group of paramilitaries, police, and hooded individuals.” Jerez was held in El Chipote for 48 hours, where she says she was denied food and was also drugged.

Jerez told the parliamentarians that her father had also been a political prisoner in the 1980s. “He was incarcerated for speaking out against the very same dictator that has imprisoned me now”, she said.

A few days ago, we heard about your visit, and we heard you would be speaking to the gentlemen that are governing our country unconstitutionally. We hope that the current situation in Nicaragua, which we could say is the most violent situation we have experienced […]

Irlanda Jerez added then that Nicaraguans would always raise their voices against oppression. Like Olesia Muñoz, Jerez does not want to negotiate with OrMu:

“The only way out for Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo is to prison. They have assassinated a people for forty years; they have enslaved a people for forty years, and in this place, we [the political prisoners] have been repressed […]. We have been denied medical attention. I spent five months in here without a change of clothes. They have stopped care packages from my family, and they also tried to drag me out in the middle of the night.

Amaya Coppens, a Nicaraguan-Belgian citizen, was also interviewed, in French, and though I don’t speak French, one of the readers of this blog does. Their translation is posted in the comments (thank you!).

Coppens impressed the MEPs, according to Javier Nart. Mr. Nart is a former guerrilla, who fought alongside the Sandinistas in the 1970s.

“I did not speak with [Coppens] but the colleagues who did see her came back  and were very emotional [and impressed] by the extraordinary [human] quality of this woman who could have chosen to claim her right [as a Belgian citizen] to be released, said that she won’t leave unless everyone is released.

Nart described how, at the end of the visit, the political prisoners sang the national anthem “I have rediscovered that enormous ethical quality that the Nicaraguan people have, which I discovered in 1979. I have an immense admiration for you.”

This is an important story. Stay tuned for part 2.


  1. Dvora

    I’m a French translator, give me some time with the YouTube videos and I’ll have a working translation for you.

    1. dr.minuscula (Post author)

      Sounds like a plan

      1. Dvora

        PART ONE – the obvious caveat is that with the background noise it is difficult to discern every word of the dialogue. This is our best reconstruction of the conversation.

        dialogue clipped at the beginning of the video

        AC: … because of that I’ve been here for 4 months.
        EuroDep 1: Yes. Have you seen the attorney already?
        AC: Yes. I just saw an attorney when I (inaudible) if not I don’t have the right to speak or have telephone communications with an attorney.
        EuroDep 2: And you were arrested where, Amaya?
        AC: At the house where I was staying. There were paramilitaries, there were police,
        Dep 2: So it was the paramilitary who took you away?
        AC: It was the paramilitary and the police.
        Dep 2: And during the protests you saw lots of youth or other people let you or… uh… you were… uh… you said that you tried to help them?
        AC: Yes.
        Dep 2: You were at Leon [with all that]?
        AC: Yes. At Leon, a city university [protest] movement. Most of the students went out into the streets, and
        Dep 2: In the month of April, 2018
        AC: Yes, and when things really [became] violent the hospital closed its doors. So it was the students and a few doctors who took it upon themselves to have little [aid stations] to rescue the injured.
        Dep 2: In your case, it’s because you’re a medical student
        AC: Yes
        Dep 2: So you helped to care for the wounded
        AC: As I was able, yes
        Dep 2: That’s why they arrested you?
        AC: Uh… why did they do that to us? There are several months of protests. And after that, my face appeared other times in videos, so I was… (nodding head)
        Dep 2: (inaudible) and so, now you’re accused of being a terrorist.
        AC: Yes.
        Dep 2: Dangerous terrorist
        AC: (Nodding head in agreement) Dangerous terrorist
        Dep 1: Can you talk a little about


        (Also posting these working translations in the comments on each video until the EU translators release their own transcripts)

  2. Dvora


    Dep 1: (Continued) Can you talk a little about [what it’s like] here?
    AC: Uh, well, we stay here all day long, we try to stand up a little, we make jewelry and bracelets out of plastic
    Dep 1: (Inaudible question)
    AC: That’s it or [question was inaudible, so difficult to discern her reply]
    Dep 2: With the colors of the country’s flag?
    AC: Yes! When they let us. But…
    Dep 2: They don’t let you? Work with the colors of the country’s flag?
    AC: No. No, no, no, no, no.
    Dep 2: It’s a crime?
    AC: Yes.
    Dep 1: It’s a crime.
    AC: It’s a crime. The blue and the white (inaudible) The last time I wore a bracelet like this they took it away from me.
    Dep 2: Oh really.
    AC: So… there you have it.
    Dep 2: Not today?
    AC: Not today, yes.
    Dep 2: Because they don’t like them.
    AC: Yes. And other than that, yes, we try to talk to each other, to (inaudible)
    Dep 2: And everyone has [good] morale? Morale? That is to say, not depressed?
    AC: There are days that are better than others.
    Dep 2: Now you’re going to go before the judge in the month of February I believe, your trial
    AC: Yes
    Dep 2: As well as your


  3. Dvora


    Dep 3: You speak French? You have hypertension?
    AC: Yes.
    Dep 3: You’re receiving treatment now?
    AC: Me, I treat myself because they don’t like to let you go to medical care, so since I’ve been here I haven’t received treatment (Deputy interrupts)
    Dep 3: [Asks another health-related question, difficult to discern]
    AC: No, I still have them.
    Dep 3: Just a little bit? So, there are a lot of you young women?
    AC: Yes, 50 women…


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