The double struggle of Cristián Tinoco: cancer and the liberation of his father, a Sandinista hero | International

For Cristián Tinoco, every day is a battle waged against two evils: cancer, which is trying to take his life, and Daniel Ortega’s regime, which has locked his father, Víctor Hugo Tinoco, a hero of the Nicaraguan Sandinista revolution, in a dungeon. Cristián’s cancer has metastasized to the lungs and bones, so each new treatment that the doctors prescribe is a hopeful path for her. She is a brave woman who, despite Ortega’s harsh repression against her critics, is not afraid to denounce what she describes as injustice: the illegal detention of her father, his imprisonment, trial and conviction. “Our slogan is that all political prisoners are innocent. My father is innocent and the only thing you can blame him for is being a patriot and loving Nicaragua,” says Cristián on the other end of the phone, with a sparkling voice that is at the same time firm and confident.

To Cristián Tinoco, 43 years old, she has been seen haughty outside the El Chipote prison, in Managua, considered by human rights organizations as a torture center. His father is in one of his cells and every day Cristián and his mother come to the place hoping to see Victor Hugo or waiting for the officers to accept the food, water and medicine they bring him. . She is a thin and frail-looking woman. She always goes with a mask and a transparent plastic sheet that covers her face, because she must take extreme precautions due to her illness. On March 17, she was able to see her father, 50 days after the previous visit. And her grief crushed her. Cristián recounts the suffering to which the former Sandinista guerrilla is subjected: “He is very thin. He said that they barely give him food and he goes hungry. I saw him very pale due to the lack of sun, because they take him out of the cell once a week. He also suffers from facial paralysis in the initial state, the eyebrow is a little lower on the right side and we don’t know what repercussions that may have. My dad has a chronic leukopenia problem. [disminución de glóbulos blancos], which weakens your defense system, so any opportunistic microorganism can make you sick. He told us that he had respiratory symptoms, sore throat. We fear there has been a covid outbreak. They haven’t given my dad a booster shot and that worries us a lot. Inside the cells the heat is suffocating and my dad is hypertensive and if his blood pressure rises he can have a heart attack. In addition, he has a sprain in his left foot, we believe from defecating while squatting, because in the first cell where he was locked up there was only a hole in the ground to relieve himself”.

  Víctor Hugo Tinoco at the UN assembly in New York in 1979.
Víctor Hugo Tinoco at the UN assembly in New York in 1979.AFP

Since that last visit, the family has had no news of the former guerrilla’s health. “He should be free,” says Cristián. “We want to know how he is doing with the facial paralysis,” he adds. Víctor Hugo Tinoco will soon be 70 years old, he has been imprisoned for 10 months and the conditions he is in make his family fear for his health. The news of the death of another Sandinista hero, General Hugo Torres, who was also imprisoned by the Ortega regime, still weighs heavily. Torres, 73, is the first political prisoner to die in the hands of the National Police, of the 47 who were arrested last summer in an orgy of arrests launched prior to the presidential elections, elections without competition that Ortega won with 75% of the votes. Torres died without being brought to trial. The retired general was one of the more than 20 elderly political prisoners, several of them valetudinarians, who were in El Chipote subjected to torture. After Torres’ death, the regime decided to house some of the older detainees, although Víctor Hugo Tinoco was not among the beneficiaries. “His lawyer has asked that he benefit from the house for jail, which is what all elderly people should have, but there has been no positive response,” says Cristián.

Cristián Tinoco is an ophthalmologist with a specialty from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). As a doctor, she knows that her illness is in the hands of science, but she also believes that her father’s suffering influences her health. She explains that in the last tests they carried out on her, the doctors found a “mass” in her abdomen that has been growing in size. Specialists have not been able to control the cancer, despite the 11 chemotherapies she has undergone, so they decided to try chemotherapy administered intravenously through a catheter. But her body rejected it with an allergic reaction that could be controlled. “Now I am with a chemo that is drink. It is just as aggressive, but I hope it will control the disease, ”she explains. “As a doctor, I know that when a person has an emotional problem, it has repercussions on their state of health. I did not have this dough. The complications have come from not being able to see my dad, from knowing that he is in conditions that are not adequate”, she affirms.

Víctor Hugo Tinoco was recruited in 1973, when he was only 20 years old, by the Sandinista Front guerrillas who wanted to overthrow the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza, the last of a dynasty that had governed Nicaragua since 1937. He was an idealistic young man, educated in the values Christians of justice in the National Seminary by French-Canadian priests, in an environment imbued by Liberation Theology, whose principle was the preferential option for the poor. The Sandinista Front of the seventies had become an urban guerrilla that attracted thousands of young people tired of the excesses of the Somoza family. It was a generation that had known no other form of government than the dictatorship with which an elite had enriched itself at the cost of keeping hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans in misery, abandonment and ignorance. Tinoco was studying at the rebellious National University in Managua, a hotbed of guerrilla fighters that was the powder keg that kept Somoza up at night. He soon became a student leader and began to organize the students, inciting people in the neighborhoods and in the unions. “The Sandinista revolution and all the heroic deeds, the struggle of the youth of the seventies, was basically anti-dictatorial, anti-dynastic and for the freedom of Nicaragua. Those were the fundamental aspirations of the bulk of the Sandinista Front combatants,” Tinoco told this newspaper in July 2019. After the triumph of the revolution, he held the position of deputy foreign minister, a position from which he had to negotiate high-level agreements. fire with the feared Contra, the guerrilla financed by the United States that sought to overthrow the Sandinista government.

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Cristián Tinoco shows a photo of his father Víctor Hugo with Daniel Ortega.
Cristián Tinoco shows a photo of his father Víctor Hugo with Daniel Ortega. INTI OCON (AFP)

Víctor Hugo Tinoco was arrested last summer along with his fellow fighters, Commander Dora María Téllez and General Torres. Téllez, Tinoco and Torres represent the old Sandinismo. The three former guerrillas distanced themselves from the Sandinista Front after the loss of the elections in 1990 and due to the control that Daniel Ortega began to exercise in the party, silencing critical voices and closing to a democratic opening for the elections of the organization’s political cadres. , until turning it into a personal apparatus, with him and his wife, Rosario Murillo, current vice president, as central figures. Ortega would never forgive that estrangement, which he considered a betrayal. Víctor Hugo Tinoco was found guilty in February by a judge loyal to Ortega and he is sentenced to 13 years for the crime of “conspiracy.”

“My father is innocent,” reiterates Cristián, who does not give up in the double struggle that life has imposed on him. He continues his battle against cancer, despite the fact that he cannot travel to Mexico, where he received treatment every six months. She says that her trips were suspended first due to the covid pandemic and then for fear that the regime would not let her leave Managua and would take away her passport, as has happened with several opponents who have tried to leave the country legally. . “There I would be in the Cancer Institute with a good follow-up, with devices that are not in Nicaragua, but I resist with what we have here,” she says. Her desire these days is to stay healthy and prevent the disease from advancing in order to have the strength to denounce what she considers an injustice against her father. “What we are experiencing is a tragedy. Let the world know that our relatives are innocent and that we are not sure that we will see them again”, warns Cristián Tinoco.

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