Sayra Laguna has been traveling by land from California for three weeks to cross the closed borders of four countries and the obstacles that the Nicaraguan government has imposed on the entry of her compatriots.
Nicaraguan judo champion, Sayra Laguna , 32 years old, started a trip overland three weeks ago from California, United States, to Nicaragua to accompany her father who fell ill with COVID-19. The crossing through four countries with closed borders plus the obstacles that the Nicaraguan government has put in to enter their homeland have given epic edges to their journey.
Laguna was twice a Central American judo champion and five times a Pan American sambo champion , a martial arts modality of Russian origin. In 2017 she was chosen as the best amateur athlete of the year in Nicaragua by the Nicaraguan Olympic Committee (CON) and the Association of Sports Reporters of Nicaragua (ACDN).
The athlete was stranded on the southern border of Guatemala this Thursday , along with 43 other Nicaraguans, most of them migrants who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic and have joined on the road seeking to return to Nicaragua.
The story of this odyssey begins in Acapulco, Mexico, in July 2018, when Sayra Laguna took the podium to receive her gold medal as a Pan American Sambo champion, with a sign that said: “From the depths of my heart I dedicate this medal to my Jesus and to all the people who have died in my country ” . In those days, the Daniel Ortega regime was executing a bloody wave of repression to dismantle the citizen rebellion that started in April, and that finally ended that year with the death of more than 300 people, more than a thousand political prisoners and the exile of more of a hundred thousand Nicaraguans.
Laguna’s gesture was taken as “treason” in the ruling ranks because she worked at the state Nicaraguan Sports Institute (IND). The subsequent workplace harassment forced her to quit her job, and the final blow occurred in December 2019 when the Nicaraguan Olympic Committee awarded the commissioner of police Ramon Avellán, who led the bloody clean-up operation in Masaya and Diriamba, through which Police and paramilitary forces shot to kill unarmed citizens or armed with artisan mortars.
“They are shit, they even reward murderers,” said Laguna on social networks. The official apparatus decreed “sports death” in fact. He was banned from entering sports facilities, so he could no longer train, and clubs, even non-state clubs, removed him from their lists of competitors.
“They awarded Commissioner Ramón Avellán. I made a comment on Facebook, hard, it’s true. They say it was vulgar, but he deserves more than that. And that was what the IND and the Olympic Committee exploited to block my access to all sports facilities, ”says Laguna by telephone from Corinto, on the southern border of Guatemala, from where he hopes Honduras authorizes the passage of his group to reach the Nicaraguan border.
Out of work and unable to train and compete, Laguna decided in January of this year to take a Crossfit course in California, United States, with a view to growing as an athlete and, perhaps, she says, to earn a living as a personal trainer. However, that same month the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and soon after he received news that his father, Ronny Laguna, had caught it.
” My grandmother and great-grandmother got sick and my dad went out with COVID. I decided to do this whole journey. I was afraid I couldn’t say goodbye to them. He is my family, the most important people to me. They told me that my dad is improving yes, ”he says.
Since passenger transport is closed, he crossed in a van from the United States to Mexico and in another van to Guatemala . There he met other Nicaraguans who were also looking to return to Nicaragua.
The Daniel Ortega regime, although officially keeping its borders open, has restricted the entry of Nicaraguans seeking refuge in their country from the scourge of COVID.
Pablo Cuevas, a lawyer for the Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH), says that this body monitors a group of 1008 Nicaraguans who left Panama for Nicaragua a week ago. However, and despite the fact that the return of Nicaraguans was an agreement between Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, only 189 have been able to enter Nicaragua and the rest, 819, remain in two shelters in the Panamanian border city of Chiriquí.
“The Nicaraguan government is the one that is hindering entry. It claims an orderly income. The trinational agreement talks about allowing 100 Nicaraguans to enter every eight hours from Thursday, July 2. But on Friday, the next day, the agreements were already broken ”, Cuevas explains.
In Guatemala, Sayra Laguna managed, before the Nicaraguan ambassador in that country, Lilliam Méndez Torres, the organization of a humanitarian flight, as other countries have done to facilitate the return of their compatriots. The answer was negative.
“The ambassador twice, in a very haughty and vulgar way, told us that she was not going to make any humanitarian trip,” says Laguna.
Along the way, in addition to traveling in cargo vans to cross borders, Sayra Laguna has survived thanks to charity and the support of friends. On the Guatemalan border, for example, the group of Nicaraguans received certain meals from a Jesuit priest who runs a migrant shelter and some Red Cross snacks.
” With Guatemala, we have no problems leaving, but Honduras asked us for a letter from the Nicaraguan embassy to back us up to register our entry as a humanitarian transit, but that letter was not given to us by the embassy, ” he points out. “Now they tell us that if we don’t do the COVID test, they won’t help us. We do not have any problem with taking the test, what we do not have is the money to do it on our own. In Guatemala, the cheapest test is worth $ 250. ”
Attorney Pablo Cuevas considers that the Nicaraguan government is committing crimes by denying relief to Nicaraguans abroad and by preventing them from entering the national territory , since both are rights protected by the Political Constitution. “Article 432 of the Penal Code says that the authority or officials who violate constitutional rights or other rights set forth in our legislation commits the crime of abuse of authority and functions,” says Cuevas.
He says that the human rights organization for which he works received the complaint from 15 Nicaraguans who work on a Mexican cruise ship that the Nicaraguan government did not allow them to enter their country. “The company assumed the costs and came to leave all the workers country by country, but unlike other Central American countries, the Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry did not respond,” he says.
Regarding the situation of the group of Nicaraguans in which the Judo champion is, Cuevas says that he has been left in limbo. They cannot return to the country from which they left nor can they enter their own homeland.
” Our authorities have handled this situation as they handle everything, indolently, irresponsibly, criminally, because in the end they are not interested in the governed. They act with contempt to the citizen ”, he regrets