Hugo Torres, Former Rebel Turned Political Prisoner, Dies at 73

Hugo Torres, Former Insurgent Turned Political Prisoner, Dies at 73

Hugo Torres, a former guerrilla chief who helped spring Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega out of jail, solely to be imprisoned by Mr. Ortega himself final yr, died on Friday at a hospital in Managua. He was 73.

Mr. Torres’s demise was introduced in an announcement by his three kids. The trigger was not specified.

In line with Luis Carrión Cruz, a politician, former Sandinista guerrilla and longtime good friend, Mr. Torres started feeling ailing in early December after months of residing below poor circumstances in jail with out medical remedy.

“They didn’t take him to hospital till the second he collapsed utterly unconscious,” mentioned Mr. Carrión, who resides in exile in Costa Rica. “We by no means knew and we nonetheless don’t know which hospital he was in, what well being downside he had.”

“The federal government,” he added, “is taking no accountability.”

In a statement, the Nicaraguan prosecutor’s workplace mentioned that Mr. Torres had been taken to a hospital as quickly as his well being started to deteriorate, and that it had “requested judicial authorities to definitively droop the beginning of his oral public trial for humanitarian causes.”

A former guerrilla commander who fought in opposition to the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza Debayle, Mr. Torres was jailed final yr as a part of a nationwide repression campaign waged in opposition to opposition politicians, activists and journalists within the lead-up to nationwide elections.

With all credible challengers jailed or compelled into exile, Mr. Ortega gained an election widely recognized as a sham. Now in his fourth consecutive time period, Mr. Ortega has continued his crackdown marketing campaign; the authorities have put a number of personal universities under state control in current weeks.

“These are the determined throes of a regime that feels it’s dying,” Mr. Torres mentioned in a video posted final June, shortly earlier than his arrest. “I by no means thought that at this stage of my life I’d be combating pacifically and civically in opposition to a brand new dictatorship.”

Jorge Hugo Torres Jiménez was born on April 25, 1948, within the northwestern division of Madriz, to Cipriano Torres, who served within the Nationwide Guard, and Isabel Jiménez de Torres. When he was a younger boy, his household moved to town of León.

Mr. Torres studied regulation on the Nationwide Autonomous College of Nicaragua in León, an establishment that was on the coronary heart of the nascent Sandinista motion opposing the Somoza dictatorship.

Mr. Torres joined the Sandinista National Liberation Front in 1971 and later left the college to go underground. He went on to take part in two of an important army operations in opposition to the Somoza household.

The primary was the takeover of the Somoza minister José María Castillo’s home, Quant, in December 1974. Mr. Torres, together with a number of guerrilla commanders, held a bunch of Somoza officers hostage, utilizing the kidnapping as leverage to safe the discharge of numerous imprisoned Sandinistas, together with Mr. Ortega, after which flee to Cuba.

The second operation was the seizure of Nicaragua’s National Palace in 1978. The guerrilla commanders held deputies and senators hostage for 2 days, securing the discharge of some 60 political prisoners.

After the triumph of the Sandinistas, Mr. Torres was given the honorary title guerrilla commander. He served as deputy minister of the inside and chief of state safety and in 1982, was awarded the Carlos Fonseca Order, the very best honor within the Sandinista motion.

He was later moved to the protection ministry and named brigadier basic within the Sandinista Military. Through the battle within the Eighties with the contras, the insurgent group backed by the US, Mr. Torres was put in command of the military’s political coaching.

“This man was one of many frontline fighters in a battle in opposition to imperialist aggression,” mentioned Stephen Kinzer, a former New York Instances correspondent who’s now a senior fellow in worldwide and public affairs at Brown College. “The ludicrous half is that he’s now being accused of being a device of that aggression. So turns the world.”

Mr. Torres was additionally a member of the Sandinista Meeting, a sort of central committee for the get together, till Mr. Ortega was defeated within the 1990 presidential election by Violeta Barrios de Chamorro. He retired from the military in 1998 and later turned essential of Mr. Ortega’s more and more autocratic tendencies.

In 2007, he joined the Sandinista Renovation Motion (M.R.S.), an opposition political group, and in 2011 he was elected to the Central American Parliament as a deputy. In 2017, he turned vp of the M.R.S., now often known as Unamos.

Through the brutal authorities crackdown on protesters in 2018, when greater than 300 individuals have been killed, Mr. Torres was a vocal critic of the Ortega authorities. He continued denouncing the regime after that.

“He was a really robust, clear voice,” mentioned Mr. Carrión, the previous guerrilla chief. “Calling for democracy, for freedom.”

Mr. Torres was arrested in June 2021 and later charged with “conspiracy to undermine nationwide integrity.” He was one in all greater than 40 critics, journalists, politicians and activists jailed by the Ortega regime within the lead-up to November’s elections.

His demise in custody has been extensively condemned, together with by the Group of American States, which said in a statement this week that it “considers the actual fact of retaining political prisoners, with terminal sicknesses and with out essential medical help, an abominable act, violating their basic rights.”

Mr. Torres’s survivors embrace his three grownup kids, Hugo Marcel, María Alejandra and Lucía Aracelly.

Regardless of the worsening crackdown, Mr. Torres didn’t appear to have given up hope. In his ultimate moments of freedom final yr, with the police surrounding his dwelling and drones hovering overhead, he continued to cry out for freedom.

“We should preserve our spirits excessive, as a result of historical past is on our aspect,” he mentioned in a video message. “The top of the dictatorship approaches.”

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