May 12, 2021
A tribute to Ileana Lacayo, Nicaraguan journalist and human rights defender
Ileana was part of a group of independent journalists who promote social mobilization, advocacy and campaigns in defence of freedom of expression, respect for women’s rights, nonviolence and territorial laws of indigenous peoples. For the last twenty years she volunteered for various initiatives and organisations to defend the rights of women, children, indigenous peoples and people of African descent.
Since 2007, Ileana faced multiple threats due to her work as a journalist in national media. In April 2018, she and her colleagues participated in a march which ended in a police attack that killed Ileana’s colleague and friend Àngel Gahona. Ileana communicated the tragedy in various ways through national and international media and was the first to identify the police as the prime suspect in the journalist’s murder. She continued demanding an investigation until her death.
Ileana’s stay in Shelter City
After she denounced Àngel’s murder, Ileana received numerous threats from Daniel Ortega’s government. The persecution and criminalization by the government forced her into temporary exile away from Nicaragua.
Ileana first found a safe space in Shelter City Costa Rica with the support of Fundación Acceso. There she was able to rest, re-energize, and receive tailormade support. After her stay in Costa Rica, she relocated to Shelter City Utrecht in the Netherlands, where she took English classes, expanded her network, spread awareness about the situation in Nicaragua, while making many friends and local allies.* Together with Peace Brigades International the Netherlands, Ileana organized a public event to draw attention to the socio-political crisis and the repression of free press in Nicaragua, and shared her story with the local audience.
Our goodbye to Ileana
Ileana died on the 29th of April in a hospital in Bluefields, Nicaragua, as a consequence of a COVID-19 infection. On the next day she was buried in the San Juan de Dios cemetery in the city of Bluefields. Her friends, family and colleagues accompanied her coffin that was covered by the Nicaraguan flag, flowers and photos.
Shelter City extends our heartfelt condolences to Ileana’s family, friends, and colleagues, and to the people of Nicaragua in these difficult moments. We got to know Ileana as a determined, courageous woman, with whom we shared many laughs. She was generous, kind and a great storyteller. She became a dear friend to us all. We will always remember her commitment to human rights, freedom of speech, her kindness, and her joy.
Shelter City Utrecht made a documentary on Ileana’s stay: