The story is heartbreaking, but no less true. At the beginning of the 1970s, Hugo Torres joined the guerrillas who were trying to remove Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza from power. The young Torres participated in 1974 in the “Victorious December” operation. An insurgent commando kidnapped a group of regime officials who were attending a party in Managua. In exchange, he demanded the release of several political prisoners, among them Daniel Ortega, with whom he later fled to Havana and participated in the Sandinista revolution in 1979.

Almost half a century later, Ortega became the executioner of the man who had rescued him. Retired General Torres died this Saturday in El Chipote prison, at the age of 73, where he was held because of his condition as an opponent. “Vilified and treated as a criminal, Hugo died of sadness and of knowing that all his heroic life was trampled on by those for whom he risked his life so many times. Betrayals are the hardest cancer that a man of integrity and goodness can suffer,” said the poet and writer Gioconda Belli.

“Like many men and women, I stepped forward, left my family and university studies to add my personal effort to that of others, who, like me, felt the blush of shame in their consciences and said enough of opprobrium, of outrages and humiliations, of crimes and larcenies; it is time for dignity, for justice, for a homeland,” Torres wrote in his memoirs Rumbo Norte. A Survivor’s Story. He should never have imagined that he could not survive Orteguismo. He paid dearly for his dissidence. Upon learning of his death, the government remained silent. It was not a state act of consternation.

In fact, Torres, who in 1978 was part of the assault on the National Palace that made it possible to free another group of political detainees, among them Tomás Borge, has become the first prisoner to lose his life in jail since 47 people were arrested last year on various charges. It is a disturbing irony of history that Dora María Téllez, another of the protagonists of the takeover of the legislature that hastened the fall of Somoza, was also convicted by a court a few days ago for sedition.

In 1979 he was distinguished with the honorary rank of guerrilla commander and appointed vice-minister of the Interior. He received the Carlos Fonseca Order, the highest distinction of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). He left the Army in the mid-nineties, with Ortega already out of government, with the rank of brigadier general. He did not take long to distance himself from the former president and the leadership of the FSLN due to an authoritarian and politically conservative drift, which grew from 2007, when he returned to executive functions together with his wife, Rosario Murillo.

His health condition had worsened in prison. He had to be assisted several times, because, due to the degree of inflammation of his legs, he could hardly move by himself. He was treated by prison doctors, but they were unable to alleviate his situation. That day, Hugo suffered a long fainting spell. He was taken out of his cell to an unknown destination.

The former general had joined the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), now known as the Democratic Renovation Union (Unamos). Last June 13, the police raided his home. They arrested him to be investigated for “acts that undermine independence, sovereignty and self-determination”. Torres knew they were coming and, as if he himself was going to meet his destiny, consummated this Saturday, before being captured he recorded a video that, in these hours, has regained topicality. “There is a strong siege, there is a presence in the surroundings, drone surveillance. What I want to tell you is that these are desperate attacks by a regime that feels it is dying, that has no legal basis, that has no justification from the institutional or legal point of view to remain in power beyond November of this year”, he said, looking at the camera. “I never thought that at this age I would be fighting in a civic and peaceful way against a dictatorship,” he added, without blinking. He then asked “the most sensible supporters of the Sandinista Front” to open their eyes. “They are leading them to the cliff.”


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