Puracal: Nicaragua won’t let me go

Nicaragua now wants me to defend myself after they have deported me from the country. I have filed a legal response to the Nicaraguan prosecutor’s latest attempt to smear my name, lock me up in a sub-human prison, and leave me to die for crimes I did not commit.

The two-year crusade against me seemingly ended last month, when an appeals court set me free and I came home to the United States. Soon after, though, I found out the prosecutor has refused to let me go. The prosecutor is abusing his authority in an attempt to take me from Seattle and put me back in prison in Nicaragua.

Along with my formal response to the Supreme Court in Nicaragua, I will soon be filing a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which will join the United Nations and others in the international community in reviewing Nicaragua’s actions in my case.

It all started in September 2002, when I went to Nicaragua as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I was extremely excited for the adventure. The work I would be doing in agriculture and economic sustainability was a unique chance to travel and help others less fortunate than me. I spent my time in the mountains working with local farmers and their families to help educate them on the latest techniques in sustainable, organic agriculture to help them live healthier lives.  

It was then that I fell in love with Nicaragua—the natural beauty, the culture, and, more than anything, the people. A few months after my Peace Corps service ended, I drove back to Nicaragua on my own to try my hand at real estate development. I married a Nicaraguan beauty, and together we had a son. Our family was content and I loved living in Nicaragua.  

After several years of hard work, I was lucky enough to become one of the most successful real estate brokers along the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. My established reputation allowed me to partner with several other like-minded individuals to start larger sustainable, organic farm projects with an emphasis on community development. I was able to spend quality time with my family and felt I had really integrated with the local community, all the while enjoying the benefits of living in tropical paradise.

On Nov. 11, 2010, my life changed radically. I will never forget the day when my office in front of the beach was stormed by masked men armed with assault rifles. Even though the Nicaragua police ransacked my office and home—confiscating whatever they desired—they never told me what they were looking for, why I was being detained, or allowed me to communicate with my family or attorney.  From that day forward my life became a living nightmare played in slow motion as in accordance with Nicaragua’s “mañana” attitude.

Eventually, I was charged with three very serious crimes, all of which I am completely innocent. Every step of the way, since the moment the police entered my office, my civil, constitutional, and human rights have been violated. Physical and verbal abuse; lack of due process; lack of legal, judicial, and evidentiary foundations; denial of food and water for days at a time; denial of medical treatment; a biased judge who was not even a legal judge—it all amounted to my wrongful imprisonment for 22 months.  Twenty-two months during which I was separated from my wife and son.  Twenty-two months in which my family struggled and exhausted every resource possible fighting for my freedom.  Twenty-two months of pure suffering.

And even now, after I have been released from prison and deported from Nicaragua, the suffering continues. The Nicaraguan prosecution continues to defy all logic and has appealed my release. They are insisting that I am guilty of crimes I did not commit, even though they do not have one piece of evidence against me. For the charge of drug trafficking, there is not even one gram of drugs in the entire case.  For the charge of money laundering, the prosecutor’s financial expert testified on the stand that no money changed hands between me or my company and the other 10 men accused in the case. He also testified that, of the 295 copies of deeds that were found in my real estate office, none were in my name, my company’s name, or in the names of the 10 codefendants.  And for the charge of organized crime, each of the other 10 defendants confirmed they had never met me before the arrest.  Not one material witness, video, photo, or phone call was presented to show that I had anything to do with the others accused.  

Sadly, my experience isn’t unique.  There are thousands of Americans jailed abroad, the majority are in Latin America. There are hundreds of innocent people in the prison system in Nicaragua, both Nicaraguans and foreigners, even other American citizens. The need for legal reform and protections for people like me has never been greater. I am hoping that my petition in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will give me the platform to bring resources to Nicaragua from the international community to help others enduring the same injustices I lived through.

In the meantime, I will be studying Sustainable Business at Bainbridge Graduate Institute in Seattle starting in January 2013. I also am looking for a job in sustainable development to implement the experiences I gained in Nicaragua in the Pacific Northwest. My sister, Janis, and I have been keeping busy by sharing our story at law schools around the country to raise awareness of the need for legal reform in Nicaragua. My son, Jabu, recently had his first day of kindergarten and my wife, Scarleth, has started her ESL classes in hopes of being able to attend a graduate law program here to further her studies in International Criminal Law and Human Rights.  

Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and the website FreeJasonP.com as we start our lives over from zero, but our hearts filled with love and hope.  

  • susan oppenheim

    thank you for your blogging and sharing-i am following your story with an open heart and a lot of prayers for you and yours

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  • Jorge Greco Rodriguez

    Wish you well Mr. Puracal

  • Carlos Briones

    I have been in countless deportation proceedings and this much is true: A deportation does not terminate pending criminal charges. This is so because deportation and criminal matters are feathers of different birds: Such as labor laws contrast with family matters.

    In fact, in the U.S. many deportees who endeavor in re-entering the country thinking that because they were deported the criminal proceedings had to have been resolved, find themselves in jail on warrants for failure to appear. Much to their chagrin, on their detention they face an unsympathetic judge who – at best, sets the bail so high making impossible to meet, or at best, promptly denies any request for the same.

    In your case, it appears, the prosecution seeks a guilty finding – now in absentia – because your release may have not been based on a conclusion of proceedings, but rather on politically motivated grounds. Unfortunately, this is the way the so-called judicial system works in Nicaragua.

    In any case since you are not presently planning to return to the country, it stands to reason that you need not be concerned with the prosecutor’s personal whimsical motivations. I would simply wait and see a new president elected and refile your petition for visa.

    Good luck.

  • Whimsical

    I met Jason 2 or 3 times at his office in SJDS in 2007, while looking at property there. His sister Jamie showed me about 10 properties. I have followed his case closely and also read Eric Volz book as well. I have followed a few other stories of usanos with legal problems in nica. I am becoming more & more concerned about going to nica or continuing to invest there. It is beginning to seem that they don’t really want foreign investment or foreigners there, or at least north American. The land grab of that swiss guys land surrounding his hotel and giving it to a general or something. The election problems. Palling around with Iran. At the least, there sure is a lot of bad publicity coming out of nica for the investor. It is certainly not going to help with western investment. I feel less comfortable there all the time. How about the rest of you?
    Jason the word I heard around is you must have crossed or ticked off the wrong person or people, probably in a real estate deal. Just speculation.

  • Carla Chamorro

    Just be patient and is a few days Romney will send Ortega and friends to jail. It’s time WE all stop being imbeciles with these neo communist murders and give’em hell. The best would be a nuclear war from Libia all the way to Kabul excluding Israel. Show the world you just don’t f**** around with the USA !!

    • http://no Damian

      I am certain that is not the solution Carla. US foreign policy is in need of change. It should not be based on flexing military muscle but rather based on dialogue and cooperation. Trade is also a great tool but needs to be applied without political strings attached. Republicans keep on talking about smaller governments and less regulation but when it comes to military spending nobody says a word. America seriously needs to rethink unnecessary military spending and spend it where it counts such as education, technology, health and other basic common infrastructure. The fiscal cliff is something to deal with.

    • Carlos Briones

      Whimsical and Carla -

      Investing in any country has its risks. In San Diego, close to the Mexico-U.S. border where I live, I am always reading about Americans getting ripped off through in real estate deals in Baja California, Mexico. Shysters team up with brand names like Trump to snarl unsuspecting buyers to invest in these beach-front properties. They then get visits from Mexican officials who tell the buyers that as foreigners they cannot own land in Mexico and strip them from title to their properties. Nicaragua has its own risks just as any other place.

      In the Puracal case, neither the prosecution nor the defendant has proffered any investment-related accusations or defenses. In fact, the only reading I have thus far is from Puracal himself and some media reporting. As such, we are at best speculating as to the true motives involving the case. Indeed, if we are to give credence to Puracal, it can easily be argued that there was a litany of evidence mishandling and prosecutorial mistakes. Even the worst of lawyers would have been successful in outlining this flagrant misconduct to a satisfactorily outcome of his client’s defense. And this apparently done. Proof of that is a hell-bent scorned prosecutor who continues to carry on with the case even when the defendant has left the country.

      Investing abroad can be a lucrative business. Millions of Americans invest abroad, including in Nicaragua. However, your due diligence should never abandon your plans.

      And Carla, one piece of advise: Anger management.

    • The Cat

      Right, Carla. That’s really what Americans want: another war. Seriously? I certainly hope that Romney is NOT elected; I certainly didn’t vote for him, that’s for sure. He’s a lying warmonger.

  • mnelson

    Well said Carlos. Please check you facts on Mexico though. North Americans can buy land in Mexico. The only restriction is within a certain distance from the borders and sea. There land is bought through a fiacomisa (sp?) a type of lease held by the bank for 99 years and renewable.

    The Puracal story bothers me for some reason. There just has to be more to it. Nicaragua benefits from and is proud of its accelerating tourism and foreign investment and I just don’t see them doing something this stupid.

    • Carlos Briones

      I presume you missed the “front-beach” reference, nelson.

  • Nena

    I believe that two things converged in this case to create the nightmare that you endured. According to your account, your real estate venture had enjoyed considerable success. This put you in a situation that thousands of other successful business people have faced, in which rumor and innuendo circulated about the source of your success. In a sense, your success became your greatest liability. As “Whimsical” states above, you might have crossed or angered someone in real estate or other business endeavor at some point. However, this would not have been necessary. The mere existence of your success may have been sufficient to instill jealousy that led to action. More than likely, someone passed along a rumor or innuendo about you to the police or a person influential in the FSLN. However, this alone likely would not have been sufficient to spark the raid on your business and home. The other component, I believe, is that the police completely botched the arrest of the other 10 guys associated with your case, at least some of which apparently did have ties to drug trafficking. Not only were no drugs or other incriminating evidence found in your case (which would be expected, as you were innocent), as far as I can tell no incriminating evidence was found for those guys either. Faced with embarrassment over their failure, the police looked for a way to save face. You became their fall guy. They took the rumors and innuendos about you and used them to concoct a storyline that allowed them to allege that even though they had not found any direct incriminating evidence, something illegal still was going on. In the end, the strategy failed, but not before about 2.5 years of your life were stolen. I am sorry that this happened to you. Did the government confiscate all of your assets?

  • guest

    Very insightful Nena.

  • Orlando J. Moncada

    You are right in one thing: There wasn´t due process at all, you were freed thanks to a poltical settlement between Nicaragua and the US. The legal merits of your case are still a mistery. But it seems you have faithful followers even praying for nuclear wars. What´s next: a legal defense fund for yourself?

  • Troy

    So they deport you and now they want you back so they can throw you back in prison? This prosecutor changes his mind more than Mitt Romney. I love travel, and I think Latin America is a beautiful place, but I have zero interest in ever having anything to do with Nicaragua now. I certainly wouldn’t buy real estate there.

  • John Shepard

    Carla:

    I LOVE the way you talk

    “It’s time WE all stop being imbeciles with these neo communist murders and give’em hell. The best would be a nuclear war from Libia all the way to Kabul excluding Israel. Show the world you just don’t f**** around with the USA !!”

    I just wish the solution were so simple. And even if it were, that’s an awful lot of eggs to break!

    I’m reminded on the in-country remark often heard during the Vietnam war: “We’re going to have to nuke this country to save it”. Luckily, we didn’t.

  • car

    jason, sue the Nica government in federal court in the US. most likely you will win. the nica govt has assets in the US for the time when you win and it’s your turn. daniel whoretega and is band of merry thieves understand only one thing: hit them in the wallets…make us all proud.

  • James

    I was an investor in Granada in the early 2000s, and my fourth attempt to purchase property through a real estate broker from the US and his Nica wife ended up with them stealing the property. When the local prosecutor attempted to indict them, the judge blocked the prosecution, perhaps because a special favor was done for her. My money and land were gone. The real estate broker happened to be a fugitive child molester from the US. He was deported and spent a few years in jail back in the states, but after his release he went back to…Granada, Nicaragua, where he remains to this day with his Nica wife and young stepchilden. Apparently he is trying to reenter polite society as I got reports a year ago that he attended a cocktail party in Granada. You can read about him here: http://2001-2009.state.gov/m/ds/rls/42217.htm