Carlos Brenes, a retired colonel of the Sandinista Popular Army (EPS), was arrested by officers of the institution once under his command. Soldiers of the Nicaraguan Army detained him at the southern border of Peñas Blancas on Wednesday when he was travelling to Costa Rica, and then turned him over to the National Police.
Daniel Ortega’s justice system accuses him —as well as other retired military and ex-members of the extinct Ministry of Interior—, as a perpetrator of terrorism and other crimes for his alleged participation in roadblocks.
Roberto Samcam, a retired Major, considers the “Army as an accomplice” for handing over Brenes— a 66-year-old man with diabetes and hypertension problems— to the Police and the “Ortega regime”, when “they know that they are putting his life at risk.” Samcam is one of nine people who were accused on Friday, August 24th, in a hearing held secretly and behind closed doors at the Seventh Criminal Court of Managua. The crimes attributed are terrorism, organized crime, blocking public services and aggravated damage.
Of the nine defendants, three are former members of the Interior Ministry, three retired military men and three civilians from Carazo. One of the departments in the country most brutally attacked during the months of June and July by the National Police and paramilitaries of the Ortega government.
Leonel Rojas Medrano, Alvaro Campos Chavez and Rodolfo Rojas Cordero are the three former members of the Interior Ministry. The military men in retirement are Roberto Samcam, Tomas Perez Maldonado and Carlos Brenes.
Besides his extensive military career, Brenes has a historical legacy in the struggle against the “Somoza” dictatorship. Brenes is a historic combatant of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), and was the right hand on covert activities of Camilo Ortega (Daniel Ortega´s brother) in Masaya.
“He is from 100 percent from Monimbo and was clandestine in the war against the Somoza dictatorship. Carlos Brenes enjoys enormous respect from military officers and those in retirement”, asserted historian and ex-sandinista guerrilla, Dora Maria Tellez.
After the assassination of Camilo Ortega at the hands of the National Guard in 1978, Brenes was sent to Chinandega to be in charge of the Tercerista tendency, the Sandinista guerrilla faction that proposed bold and concrete military actions to defeat “Somoza”.
In the social networks circulates a picture in which Brenes appears embracing Daniel Ortega and other members of the Terceristas in 1978: German Pomares, Joaquin Cuadra, Francisco Rivera and Oscar Perez Cassar.
Brenes belonged to the Guerrilla Command Staff of the Rigoberto Lopez Perez Western Front, and was received the rank of Commander when the Sandinista Popular Army (EPS) was founded.
“An important officer”
“He (Brenes) was one of the most important cadres of the Revolution and the EPS,” said Commander Hugo Torres. “He is a military man with an outstanding record, but Daniel Ortega wants to send a message that nobody is safe from repression, regardless of their historical, military and party record,” added Torres, also a dissident of the FSLN and a member of the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), as is Dora Maria Tellez.
During his time at the Army, Brenes stood out as a Tank Brigade Commander, was the Chief of the II Military Region (Leon and Chinandega) until 1991, when he retired as a colonel.
Brenes used some of his retirement time to serve as coordinator of the Patriotic Group of Retired Military, who demanded that Ortega’s Government fulfill its campaign promises. From that organization, he formed part of the Broad Front for Democracy (Frente Amplio por la Democracia—FAD), which for some years has criticized the authoritarian drift of Ortega.
“In the case of Carlos Brenes, there are aggravating factors that Ortega wants to punish. First, that he has been working permanently on vindicating the demands of the military, who have been deceived by Ortega, since they still expect the law to be regulated,” presented Tellez. “And second, that Carlos Brenes and his association were actively working with FAD, as a way to have political participation, in this alternative way to do politics for democracy of this country,” added Tellez.
Until now, this retired colonel has not been presented by the authorities and is unknown to which prison he was transferred. Although, in this type of case, the cells of the Judicial Assistance Department (DAJ), known as El Chipote, are used by the National Police.
The FAD issued a statement condemning the detention of Brenes. “Like Cristhian Fajardo and his wife, and many others, the Army, far from guaranteeing the security and free movement of Nicaraguans, is acting as a repressive organ that facilitate arbitrary arrests,” assured this opposition movement.
The retired Major Roberto Samcam assured that only Coronel Brenes and his counterpart Tomas Maldonado are the only two detainees of the nine accused. Samcam as well as the others fled the country. However, both Brenes and Maldonado are two elderly men, who share the disease of diabetes, and had stayed in Nicaragua despite the harassment.
“Brenes is dependent on insulin. He must inject twice a day and he suffers from chronic hypertension” said Samcam, who was also part of the Patriotic Group of Retired Military.
Although Samcam assures that the retired colonel did not participate in the Jinotepe barricades as Ortega’s justice system ascribes to him, it is documented that on May 16, he read in the Pedro Joaquín Chamorro plaza, in Monimbo, a statement by retired militaries demanding Ortega to leave power.
Brenes lived on an avocado producing farm between Jinotepe and Masatepe. “He was really not involved in anything, because of his health condition,” insisted Samcam.
The retired Major described the accusation of which he and Brenes are victims, as the way that Ortega found to set a “precedent” so that no one who was in the structures of the Army or what was the Ministry of the Interior has “the right to lift a hand,” because there will be “retaliation”.
Samcan challenges the accusers to demonstrate to the Public Prosecutor’s Office evidences of his involvement in the barricades in Carazo. According to this retired Major, there is no photograph of him or of Brenes anywhere near a barricade. What Samcam does admit is that he was denouncing in social networks the high caliber weaponry used by the hooded paramilitaries and the tactics used during the “clean-up operations” against citizens resistance.
“This is a political accusation, because I was Departmental President of the MRS, my activities as a blogger and for my radio program. I am not in the opposition to the Ortega regime since April 18th to the present. I have been denouncing corruption, illicit enrichment, drug-trafficking, contraband of wood and livestock, land trafficking, mining and fishing concessions since Ortega got to power,” assured Samcam. “This is the cause of the accusation. The real cause,” emphasized the retired Major, who does not doubt that the same logic has been applied for Coronel Brenes.
Tomas Maldonado appears after 24 days
The accusations against these officers in retirement cropped up with the preliminary hearing held on August 24th behind closed doors, and the presentation on Tuesday, August 28th, of retired Major Tomas Maldonado.
Jessenia Maldonado, daughter of this retired military officer, told CONFIDENCIAL that her father was kidnapped by paramilitaries on August 2nd in Los Brasiles, when he was in the house of one of her sisters. Since that day, the family of Tomas Maldonado, did not know anything about him. He was missing.
“We looked for him in the Police District 2 station, but they always denied having him. We went daily to El Chipote to see if he was on the list, but he did not appear. We even went to the Army General Staff to ask about him, but they did not tell us anything either,” stated Jessenia Maldonado. It was until Tuesday that she saw her father in the official media being accused of “kidnapping, torture, murders, assaults, and rapes in the different barricades.”
Tomas Maldonado was departmental political secretary for Carazo and worked in the presidential elections of 2006 and 2011 together with Daniel Ortega. After that, he distanced himself from the authoritarianism of the Ortega-Murillo family and entered fully into the protestant religion. He was a pastor, but never stopped criticizing the current regime.
In August 2017 we interviewed him at his house in Jinotepe to talk about the protests of the sandinista political base against the candidates imposed by the presidential couple, and during the interview he mixed political ideas with biblical verses.
Jessenia Maldonado assured that they [the Ortega people] were looking for her father and called on him to be part of the paramilitary groups. “He refused categorically because he is dedicated to God. He told them that his only boss is Jesus Christ,” assured the daughter.
According to the accusation, “the terrorist groups led by Tomas Maldonado placed two fuel tanks at the entrance to the department’s police station, throwing Molotov cocktails to make them explode and cause fear and anxiety on the people,” on July 19th, in Jinotepe.
However, his daughter claims that her father attended with his bible to pray in the streets of Jinotepe while they were blocked.
“That does not make a case against Tomas Maldonado. It is a case against military officers and ex-members of the Interior Ministry who have rebelled against the Ortega dictatorship. “They place Tomas in all the roadblocks and barricades as if he was Superman: in all places at all times,” refutes former guerrilla Dora Maria Tellez. “This is revenge and a warning from Ortega: he will reward paramilitaries and punish anyone who has had anything to do with the Interior Ministry, Army or Sandinista Front, over whom he has unleashed a brutal persecution,” the historian warned.