The aggressive attack launched by the Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry against the OAS’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, has meant a declaration of war against this institution, whose report about the grave human rights violations in Nicaragua is being backed by 21 countries on the continent.
For the “crime” of documenting the worst massacre perpetrated by the State in a Latin American country (where there isn’t a civil war or armed conflict), the Government is accusing the IACHR of partiality, political bias, manipulation of facts and complicity to justify an attempted “coup”, which only exists in official propaganda’s twisted plots.
President Daniel Ortega himself began this escalation of attacks in a CNN interview when he called IACHR Executive Secretary Paulo Abrao a “liar” and when he tried to discredit this organization’s reports which have confirmed 322 deaths as a result of state and paramilitary violence.
A few days later, the Government presented its own official report about this violence, according to which only 198 people died over a 98-day period, thereby implicitly admitting that the worst massacre in the history of Nicaragua in times of peace has been recorded under Ortega’s leadership. Not even the fact that the Government wants to cover up 124 deaths, recorded in IACHR reports, detracts from the significance of the massacre that they are recognizing.
However, it is unbelievable that they are trying to wipe these 124 victims off of the face of the Earth, whose identities have been verified with their full names by the IACHR and national institutions, such as the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) and the Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH).
The Ortega-Murillo dictatorship has concocted an even more perverse version of “false positives”, of the type which gained notoriety during Alvaro Uribe’s time in government. In Colombia. There, abuses of the Army and security forces in the killings of innocent civilians were made to pass off for guerrilla fighters who died in combat, during a war against armed rebel groups. In Nicaragua, the Ortega dictatorship is trying to cover up the murders and extrajudicial killings of over one hundred civilians who took part in civic protests, as if they were the death toll of ordinary crime and traffic accidents. And the most despicable thing about all of this is that they want to kill these victims of repression again, by denying them their right to an identity and by reducing them to a simple figure.
Four months after the massacre that began in April, the Ortega regime is refusing to present a list of the victims of this massacre: the dead, the injured, political prisoners and the disappeared. The only identities of victims to be publicly disclosed are those of 21 police men, while over 300 citizens’ names have been hidden from the public.
If there is some discrepancy between the official assessment and the IACHR’s report, and if these people did die as a result of ordinary crime like the Government is claiming, and not as a result of the massacre perpetrated by paramilitaries and the Police, then the government should present its list, with names, surnames and identity cards, so that they can be cross-checked with IACHR, CENIDH and CPDH lists. The Government is now trying to revictimize their families, who have had to bury their dead amid mockery and grief.
With the IACHR’s arrival to Nicaragua and later the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), people in Nicaragua hoped that the truth would at least be recognized, understanding that justice would have to wait for a profound reforms process of the Chief Prosecutor’s Office and legal system, with international support, under a new democratic government after Ortega leaves power.
However, now we are faced with a massive cover-up operation, orchestrated by the State, to hide the deaths of victims and to kill the truth. And in order to make it perfectly clear that the massacre will remain immune, or in the last case negotiated into an amnesty agreement to cover up those who are really responsible, the dictatorship’s legal system is charging 132 citizens (all of whom were demonstrators or civic rebellion sympathizers) with “murder, organized crime and terrorism”. At the same time, not one member of the National Police, paramilitary groups or State Security, perpetrators of the repression, has been arrested or are facing legal proceedings.
Nonetheless, in spite of the paramilitary repression, rigged trials against political prisoners, property invasions, public sector lay-offs, threats and persecution against those who take part in protests, self-organized Nicaraguans continue to protest in the streets, demanding early elections and an end to the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship. They will only be able to bring about a new political path forward at the polls if national civic pressure and international condemnation are turned up to the max, and at the same time, obtain a solution through the ballot box, with Ortega out of power, in this struggle for democracy and justice.
Sooner rather than later, the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, will also have to recognize that Ortega’s regime is a dictatorship, just like or worse than the one in Venezuela, and take action accordingly. Then, we have to hope that he does good on what he said before the OAS Permanent Council on July 11th. It’s time to turn these words into reality.