Costa Rican businessman held in ‘deplorable’ conditions in Nicaraguan jail, says foreign minister

June 23, 2015
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Costa Rica expressed its displeasure Monday over the detention of a Costa Rican businessman in Nicaragua nearly four weeks ago. José Daniel Gil Trejos, who was detained on May 26, has since been held incommunicado without an explanation for his arrest, according to Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry.

The harsh treatment of Gil has added another layer of tension to an already strained relationship between the two Central American neighbors.

Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel González told reporters that Nicaraguan authorities have been unwilling to share information about Gil’s condition at El Chipote jail, where the minister said he was living in a “deplorable” situation.

“It’s an unfortunate situation for any human being. The lack of communication and response [from Nicaragua] has surprised us,” González said.

The minister said Gil has not had access to a lawyer nor a medical evaluation since his detention.

After several requests, the Costa Rican Embassy in Managua was able to “prove that at least he was alive,” according to the foreign minister.

On Saturday, González tweeted that the Costa Rican vice consul in Managua was able to visit Gil at the jail where he was reportedly held in a “maximum security” facility. The minister tweeted that Gil’s health had deteriorated and he was wearing almost no clothing. Gil requires medication for hypertension that he has not been receiving in custody, González said.

González addressed the dispute over the handling of the businessman’s arrest after presenting his complaints to the Nicaraguan ambassador in San José, Harold Rivas. Rivas would only comment that it was a “police matter.”

According to González, the Costa Rica government was “informally” told that Gil had been detained in Nicaragua for an Interpol alert from 2013 regarding an alleged fraud in Mexico, where Gil lived for 30 years. On Monday afternoon, Nicaraguan authorities issued a statement citing the Interpol alert, according to the Nicaragua newspaper La Prensa.

A Tico Times search of Interpol’s database Monday did not produced any results for Gil.

Gil’s family said Monday they would present new complaints to the Nicaraguan courts via the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights and the nongovernmental Center for Justice and International Law. González said that after the government was able to review the motions it would coordinate its actions with the family in court.

The conflict over Gil has added yet another source of tension to relations between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The countries are at loggerheads over a frontier wetlands region claimed by both nations and the construction of a highway on the Costa Rican side of the border.

“I hope that this does not unnecessarily exacerbate feelings between our peoples. This is not about the actions of the Nicaraguan people but rather the procedures of penitentiary authorities. We do not want to think that this is an attitude against Costa Ricans who visit that country,” González said. “Costa Rica will not abandon its citizens, wherever they are.”

L. Arias contributed to this report.

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