Spain will offer a path to citizenship for 222 Nicaraguan political prisoners who were recently released from prison and many of whom were sent to the United States on Thursday, a spokesman for Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told CNN.
The spokesman did not immediately respond to a CNN question regarding the details of the offer, including how quickly they could receive citizenship. The spokesman spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing local professional norms.
Questions have mounted on the fate of the more than 200 new arrivals to the US, who were also stripped of their Nicaraguan citizenship on Thursday.
Their release followed years of repression by the Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega. The authoritarian leader has jailed dozens of opposition figures and activists, particularly in the lead up to the last elections in November of 2021.
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Thursday that the individuals, who all flew to Dulles International airport in Washington, will be granted humanitarian parole for two years, allowing them to remain US and giving them the time to apply for asylum if they wish.
Each of the individuals who left Nicaragua “voluntarily consented to travel,” and “there were two individuals who, on their own volition, chose not to travel to the United States,” Price said.
Among the released prisoners is one American, according to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who welcomed their move, calling it a product of American diplomacy.
Ortega on Thursday said their release was not negotiated with Washington. “We just wanted them to go,” Ortega said.
After calling the release of the prisoners “a message for peace and stability for Nicaragua,” the 77-year-old leader said the original list of those to be released contained 228 names, but the US had vetoed at least four prisoners because they had been convicted of common crimes.
Bishop Rolando Alvarez, a high-profile member of the Catholic Church who has long opposed the Ortega regime and was detained in August 2022, was also due to be released, but he refused, Ortega said. Instead, 11 members of the clergy were released on Thursday morning.
The political prisoners were greeted by US officials, activists and members of the Nicaraguan diaspora at Dulles airport.
One of the arrivals was political activist Felix Maradiaga, who told CNN en Espanol that they only realized what was happening when by the plane.
“They made us sign some documents saying in one single line that we were leaving the country of our free will with no further explanation,” he said. “On one side what happened is shocking, but on the other, I’m overwhelmed by this moment, the opportunity to hug our family. Personally, I haven’t seen my daughter in more than three years.”