The first thing that caught my attention in the speech of the Army Chief, Julio Cesar Aviles, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of that institution was what he didn’t say.
Of course, it’s also noteworthy what he did say. But what he didn’t say is as relevant.
In his extensive speech, chock full of empty rhetoric, puns and entire paragraphs of self-congratulation, the general never made even one single mention of the phrase “human rights”. This was true despite the fact that respect for human rights appears precisely in the first article of the Military Code.
Why didn’t the general Julio Cesar Aviles speak of human rights? We live in a country where the regime has been accused of committing crimes against humanity. The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International, as well as the highest international body in matters of human rights, which is the United Nations Security Council, have all censured the regime for torture, crimes, illegal detentions, disappearances, and other violations.
Could it be that the general felt that speaking about human rights in front of the person accused of masterminding the commission of crimes against humanity would be like mentioning the noose in the home of someone who’d been hanged?
We don’t know. The fact is, he didn’t speak of human rights.
General Julio Cesar Aviles also didn’t mention freedoms and constitutional rights.
Nicaragua is a country where the population has been the victim of an oppressive and repressive regime which menaces and attacks on every corner, in every neighborhood, along the streets, highways and roads, in the homes and commercial centers, at all hours of the day and night. They deprive citizens of liberty, ripping away their lives and property. A country where the media outlets have been shuttered and sacked, and their offices occupied on orders from the regime’s hierarchs. The right to demonstrate has been persecuted with viciousness and violence. The world knows it. But the General didn’t even touch on the topic of citizen rights and freedoms.
The General didn’t mention, not even in passing, the word democracy. He repeated the words “security, stability, and peace”, over and over. The security of the rifles. The peace of the cemeteries. He banished from his vocabulary the word democracy. And democracy, General, is the essential condition for security, prosperity and peaceful coexistence.
It would seem that in the mind and in the world where the Army Commander lives, neither human rights, nor freedoms, nor citizens’ rights, nor democracy exist.
There’s been a lot spoken and written about what the General said. I’m going to pause for a moment to examine the two aspects I consider most serious.
While telling his version of the story, the General mentioned the decade of the eighties, and with a single phrase, highlighted the abyss that separates his vision from the Nicaragua that we, the immense majority of Nicaraguans, aspire to construct. He bruised a wound that’s still open. All, or nearly all, of us recognize that in addition to the Cold War that the country signed onto during the decade of the eighties, the United States’ policy of aggression that was unleashed was also a civil war. And the General placed himself on the opposite side of history.
Tens of thousands of young Nicaraguans were sent to kill and to die in a war that wasn’t their own, obligated by the military draft. Those wounds are open. And tens of thousands of Nicaraguan lives, those who were members of the Resistance (Contras), were also dragged into the fratricidal confrontation. The General’s speech did no favors for the army, nor for the reconciliation that would have to accompany any true peace, democracy and freedom.
The second abominable aspect of the speech is the implied menace. The exact phrase was: “They should know that we know who’s behind that brutal campaign of attacks and provocations and we hold them responsible for the physical and moral effects on our fellow soldiers and family members.” He added more, but that one sentence is enough. It’s a matter of the gravest kind of accusation. He spoke of physical aggression and included the family members.
What did the General mean to say with the expression: “we hold them responsible”?
Is it gallant for an armed person who feels he has impunity to proffer such phrases in an irate tone, before people who are unarmed and defenseless? And if it’s an authority with a military body at his command, within a repressive regime, then we’re all up a creek. Obviously, the General’s open threat has the clear intention of intimidating.
If the General is so proud of respecting the laws, then making the denunciation public with first and last names is elemental. It would be a good idea for him to once more review Article 26 of the Constitution. In Section 3, it says: “Every person has the right to know all the information that has been registered about them in the public or private entities, as well as the right to know why, and to what end this information is being held.”
If the General has the information he says he does, we can ask a legitimate question: “General, did you let those people that you say are behind the campaign know the information that you have, why you have it, and for what end you have it?
“Your legal obligation is to inform them. And if you haven’t, you’re violating the Constitution that you claim to respect.”