The case of Zoilamérica

In 1998, Zoilamérica Ortega Murillo published a letter accusing Daniel Ortega Saavedra, a former leader of the Sandinista revolution, of raping and sexually abusing her since she was a young girl. At the time of the accusation, held a seat in the national assembly and was preparing to run for president of Nicaragua for the third time. The charges became the biggest threat to his political career.

The legal battle in the courts lasted 3 years, until finally a judged from Ortega’s political party ruled that the statute of limitations had run out. Zoilamérica’s mother, Rosario Murillo remained loyal to Ortega. She accused her daughter of lying and claimed the accusation was a family issue.

Zoilamérica continued to stand by her accusations, despite constant harassment and persecution by loyalist to Ortega and the Sandinista party. In 2007, Ortega returned to power and Murillo quickly became the second most powerful person in the government. Many, including her own daughter, attributed her ascent to power as a reward for her loyalty to Ortega.

 

The Ortega government quickly became an authoritarian regime. He eliminated constitutional term limits, took full control of the electoral council and cleared the way for his reelection in 2011 and 2016. In 2013, Zoilamérica expressed her support of retirees protesting the reduction of their pensions. Months later, in retaliation, her Bolivian boyfriend was kidnapped by inmigration agents, driven to the border and deported. Fearing for her life and the wellbeing of her three children, Zoilamérica fled to Costa Rica, where she now lives in exile.

In 2016, Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo were sworn in as President and Vice President of Nicaragua. In April of 2018, government reforms to the social security system triggered a national uprising. In six months of brutal repression police aided by paramilitary units killed more  than 350 protesters. The violence unleashed the worst political crisis since the civil war in the 1980s. Fifty thousand Nicaraguans have been forced into exile, mostly in neighboring Costa Rica. Zoilamérica continues to denounce Ortega.

“Exiled” is the first documentary about her life. The film provides an intimate look into her struggle to confront her authoritarian family and the scars left by her sexual abuse while taking care of her ten year old son, Giordano.

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