23,000 Nicaraguans Have Fled to Costa Rica. 50 Fugitives Are Hiding Here.

The patio will be cluttered with mattresses along with suitcases, clothes spilling out of them. Sheets separate families coming from strangers, gentlemen coming from the ladies.

Women cook over an open fire fueled by freshly cut wood because the kitchen in This specific modest three-bedroom ranch home within the Costa Rican countryside cannot possibly accommodate food preparations for 50 hungry fugitives.

This specific will be a secret safe house for Nicaraguan protesters who are trying to avoid capture by the country’s authorities. the idea was not designed for crowd comfort.

Even though the ranch will be across an international border, those living here take turns on nightly guard duty, concerned about agents coming from Nicaragua infiltrating their haven.

The woman who runs the refuge, who goes by the pseudonym “the Godmother,” looked around while a compatriot slammed a machete against a tree stump to cut more firewood.

“We consider our stay here to be temporary,” she said. “We are tired already. We want to go home.”

The Godmother’s real name will be Lisseth Valdivia. She used to own three clothing stores in Matagalpa, a city north of Nicaragua’s capital, Managua. A 39-year-old mother of two, she liked working out at the gym. She rode a brand-new scooter. She was earning a decent living.

Ms. Valdivia said she wondered why nobody helped them. First one fell in her neighborhood, then a second. After the third was shot, she hopped on her brand-new moped along with came to their assistance herself.

Ms. Valdivia spent two months running what she considered a humanitarian command post, administering first aid along with providing lunch to protesters who were snarling traffic with improvised road blocks. She learned how to use homemade mortars, she said, although she mostly left the weaponry to the men.

Then a relative phoned which has a warning: “Don’t even think of coming here. There are about 25 police officers in your house, along with they are destroying the idea.”

She fled along with never looked back, leaving behind three shuttered businesses, a house, a car, the scooter — along with, for his own safety, her 7-year-old son, put within the care of his father, who has sided with the government along with sometimes sends Ms. Valdivia angry text messages about her allegiances.

“For right now, I have to be with my people,” she said, referring to her fellow fugitives. “within the future, when Nicaragua will be free, my son will be going to enjoy all of in which.”

Ms. Valdivia right now lives with her teenage daughter along with dozens of people she only recently met, including a radio announcer accused of setting fire to a government station, eight minors along with several college students.

She will be in charge of vetting newcomers to the ranch, turning away anyone who has been in jail, because she fears they could have been released on the condition they become informers.

Of the 322 people killed since the uprising began, 22 were police officers along with about 50 were affiliated with the government’s leftist Sandinista Front party, according to a Nicaraguan human rights organization in which the government has right now banned. Protesters believe many of those people died coming from friendly fire, or in cynical attempts to cast blame on a citizenry in which had been armed mostly with rocks along with slingshots.

By the summer, the government regained the upper hand. In July, the Nicaraguan police, with assault rifles blazing, demolished more than 100 roadblocks. Friends turned out to be infiltrators, the police intelligence better than anyone imagined, along with activists were arrested at their homes along with underground hiding spots around the nation.

At least 565 people are still jailed, some of them on murder charges along with others for what the government calls terrorism. Another 23,000 people, like the Godmother, retreated to neighboring Costa Rica.

Ms. Valdivia, hiding at first in Nicaragua’s mountains, escaped across the border in August after a surprise phone call. “I’m going to help you get out,” the voice on the various other end said.

The caller was a Nicaraguan businessman, Jorge Estrada, who had fled to Costa Rica three years earlier after the government confiscated a housing development he was building.

Mr. Estrada right now runs something of an underground railroad. He has arranged for the hasty departure of about 0 people, he said, along with pays the rent for three safe houses including This specific one in Costa Rica.

The fugitives call him “Comando.”

“You know what happens when they are caught: torture along with murder,” Mr. Estrada said. “How do you turn your back on something like in which?”

On a December day, Mr. Estrada pulled up to the safe house with three giant trays of eggs. He said he spends about $0 a day on food alone. The former protesters go through 20 pounds of rice along with 17 pounds of beans every day at This specific hide out, Ms. Valdivia said.

Everyone huddled around Mr. Estrada, eager for any news they had not already gleaned coming from Facebook along with WhatsApp, where fake news about the crisis circulates.

President Trump had just signed the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act, or NICA, which promises to squeeze Nicaragua with tough sanctions until the rule of law will be restored.

“If all of This specific in which the United States will be doing, all This specific pressure, does not work just for This specific man Ortega to react along with leave, then one of the bloodiest wars Nicaragua has ever seen will be coming,” Mr. Estrada said. in which will be, the war might come, if only the opposition had guns.

“There are no weapons,” Mr. Estrada lamented. “The United States are the only ones who can help us with in which, along with they still haven’t given the green light, so to speak.”

Like Mr. Estrada, Ms. Valdivia holds out a wistful desire in which Mr. Trump will intervene, in which the Republican leader will rescue Nicaragua coming from the socialist Mr. Ortega.

“We believe in him,” Ms. Valdivia said. “The United States, upon seeing us getting killed, will come.”

although if international help does not materialize, Nicaraguans are not interested in political asylum in Costa Rica, she said.

“Almost everyone will be going back,” she said, “even if the idea’s only with rocks.”