Nicaragua’s opposition wants to turn jail into torture museum

El Chipote has a long history of torture and abuse

A bill presented to the National Assembly this week by opposition lawmakers seeks to convert Nicaragua’s most infamous jail cells into a torture museum.

Legislators from the Nicaraguan Democratic Bloc (BDN) have presented an initiative that would permanently close the El Chipote prison, the site of the most heinous acts of torture under the Somoza dictatorship and Sandinista government, and convert the rat-infested cells into a national museum—one that most Nicaraguans over the age of 20 would probably be too afraid to visit.

Liberal lawmaker Alberto Lacayo, who is sponsoring the bill, says the jail should be closed due to its “long, painful, shameful and humiliating history related to military-political power, authoritarianism and repression.”

In presenting the bill to congress, the BDN offered testimonies of gold prospectors from Chontales who were recently held in the cells and allege that abuse is still common practice in the infamous jail—a claim rejected by police. The El Chipote complex, which overlooks Loma de Tiscapa and includes subterranean cells where prisoners have allegedly been forced to sleep naked on urine-drenched concrete floors shared by cockroaches and rats, has been closed to human rights inspectors since President Daniel Ortega returned to power in 2007.

In the past, the jail cells have allegedly been used for all sorts of psychological and physical torture, including electrocution. Since the 1990s, there have been various unsuccessful attempts to convert the old jail into a type of torture museum.

The ruling Sandinista Front, which regularly ignores or rejects opposition initiatives presented to the National Assembly, has not yet commented on the BDN’s latest legislative effort. But hope springs eternal.

“This would be a beautiful Christmas gift for the Nicaragua people for all the deaths and torture that this place has represented over the years,” the BDN said in a press release.