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Nicaragua: The March Where They Killed Matt Romero

There was a bloodbath, and the crowd fled. Later, they’d state that he died in the “crossfire”.

Surrounded by the crowds, a hand in a latex glove lightly probes his neck with two fingers; then they close his eyes, and take him to the hospital. But he was already dead. I saw his body and his face on the ground before they lifted him onto the ambulance stretcher.

The video is playing over and over on Miguel Mora’s 100% news channel, and I notice that his eyes are barely half-open, without consciousness and without sparkle. I see when they open his mouth, his head drooping, his hands splayed on his blue jeans. Around his neck, the blue and white kerchief; his t-shirt, also white, is bloodstained.

There were also five wounded, among them an older woman and a student from Managua’s private American University who’s been admitted to the Nicaraguan-German Hospital. Outside, the police are waiting for him to take him away. The exact number of young people arrested isn’t known. A woman appears, crying and expressing her fury at how they were attacked. Another woman’s face is bloody from the blows she suffered. People are talking indignantly and crying, calling the TV news channel on their cellphones.  

The march, announced only the day before, began in the area around the Ivan Montenegro market. It was supposed to leave from Managua’s wholesale market, far from the city center and near the northern highway, an area lined with poor neighborhoods that had previously been spontaneous squatters’ camps that had gradually become urbanized.

However, the demonstrators couldn’t gather at the agreed-upon site, since the riot squad was already there, among them the paramilitary on their motorcycles. First, a rain of rocks fell on the crowd, but they pressed forward; then there were teargas bombs, and the crowd continued on; and later – near the neighborhood known as Las Americas II – came the bloodbath caused by a barrage of gunfire from the AKA rifles, at the order of the higher ups.

That’s when the crowd fled with their wounded, took shelter in the church, broke apart, then became overwhelmed by still more indignation. They howled like a pack of trapped wolves – persecuted, impotent, detesting them from the depth of their rage and swearing “by this cross that they must go.”

It was one more massacre at a march in which there were children, peddlers, older people, ordinary people, young people with their dreams, unemployed men, women dancing joyfully in their traditional huipil dresses and flags, with no weapons other than their honorable shouts demanding [that Ortega and Murillo] “Go!”

His name was Matt Andres Romero. He was 16 years old and was in his junior year of high school. He lived in the “Omar Torrijos” neighborhood.  His death added one more to the number of those assassinated. They killed him with a bullet to the chest from an AKA rifle.  He had been one more in a multitude that was stampeding to escape the bullets. Matt turned around to help a woman who had fallen down wounded, another youth said.

In a rapidly drafted statement that the police issued that same day, they said that he “died in the crossfire”. His mother wouldn’t sign the paper they gave her in the hospital that said that Matt was armed at the moment of his death. His uncle explained on the news that his only weapon was his backpack with a water bottle, a blue and white kerchief and the Nicaraguan flag.

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