Under the expressed orders of Daniel Ortega, the Nicaraguan Police used officers with experience in criminal investigation to “make a file” on the leaders of the students’ protests, peaceful demonstrations and barricades/roadblocks in the country. With that information the order was to detain them in their homes or directly “eliminate them,” a former Police lieutenant that participated in these tasks of political espionage told Confidencial.
The former officer, with 20 years of work in the institution, defected from the Police at the end of June, and told his story in a hotel in Mexico City, where he has taken refuge, in exchange for keeping his identity anonymous.
He said that the orders of his superiors were clear: to infiltrate the protests, and record and recognize potential leaders, whose identity later formed part of lists that included the address of their homes and their movements. These lists were delivered to the closest chiefs, who then passed them to the Police Intelligence Directorate, in charge of forming “commandos” whose job was to hunt down the citizens.
The orders of the Commander: “You have a free hand”
“The orders were precise: they said that the commander had already given orders and we had a free hand. We are not going to be prosecuted, there are orders to go out and kill people. And those that remain alive, that we manage to capture, we are going to prosecute them as terrorists. We had pistols and AK rifles. Each of us, at that moment, was assigned two AK rifle magazines, loaded with bullets,” narrates this man, who says he fears for his safety and that of his family.
Before the April rebellion, the work of this ex-lieutenant consisted in investigating crimes and felonies that were reported to the Police and help bring the guilty to justice. After the protests broke out, they assigned him a political espionage mission: to monitor the demonstrations and the barricades, to identify the leaders of the protests and locate their homes.
“In the first days of April we, as policemen, were closed in [our stations], quartered. It was by order of Daniel Ortega. He said that we should not go out on the streets because the people were making barricades, they were protesting. What he expected was for civilians to attack those who were in the barricades or those who were protesting, but that was not the case. When he saw that things got out of his hands, he directly gave orders for the Police to go out to repress the citizens. He said categorically that we should go out and kill the people who were at the roadblocks,” he explained.
And, he continues his story: “They forced us to go out and “pinpoint” the houses and document where the leaders of the barricades lived, and then execute them. If you remember, at some places they appeared dead. That is because they were picked up in one place and they were killed elsewhere. There are people who are missing, and logically they will never be found.
“We pointed out where “so and so” lived, and then went get them at night or grab them in the streets. We would go directly to a place, a barricade, or to a march, where people protesting against the government. There we would pinpoint, that is to say, identify the person, the leader and then his location, see where he lived, and then go to take them out of their house. If they were grabbed in the street they were killed, because that was the order. The police worked in civilian clothes. Those (policemen) who were pinpointing the leaders, were dressed in civilian clothes.”
“If you are going to pinpoint,” others will set up “the operation group”
The testimony of this ex-police officer reveals how the chain of command worked in the operations that the Police, controlled by Ortega—Supreme Chief of the institution–, carried out to decapitate the demonstrations and carry out illegal arrests house by house or during the same protests.
This was documented by hundreds of videos published on social networks, which were later analyzed by experts convened by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts of the IACHR, who concluded that the security forces operated outside the law and point to the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega of committing crimes against humanity, in a comprehensive report made public in Washington, after the expulsion of the experts.
“My immediate chief told me: you will go and pinpoint such and such a person. He would give me the names and gave me instructions to go and locate the houses where the student leaders lived and those at the barricades. I passed the information to my chief, and he would pass it on to those of intelligence to specify more where the person of interest could mobilize. Then they assembled another group, they call it the operations group, which went out to capture people, the people of interest of the Police or of direct interest of the government,” this ex-officer tells us.
From Mexico he says that he regrets the espionage work that he had to do, but he was following orders. He assures, however, that he never killed anyone. “I managed to identify ten people. Until now, I cannot summon up the names. I ignored some things, but my immediate boss used to tell me: “Film them, take their pictures,” but I made believe that my cellphone was dead. He would tell me: you are a fool, the order from the commander is to film and take the photos of all these people and then send them to him so he knows out how many we have and then eliminate them.”
The ex-lieutenant assures that in the caravans in charge of capturing these people participated paramilitaries and among these groups were ex-policemen, ex-military and even active Army officers. The Chief of Police, Francisco Diaz, admitted in a video that went viral on social networks that in the country “professional” agents of the institution acted “undercover” in the demonstrations against Ortega.
In the video, which is an excerpt from an interview given a few days ago to the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet, Diaz is asked about the role of the paramilitaries.
“Many of them, who were in civilian clothes, were not voluntary police officers, they were our professional police officers, most of them were professional police officers working undercover,” says Diaz on video, which had not been previously revealed. Diaz, to whom the Government of the United States applied the Magnitsky Law last July for “serious human rights against the people of Nicaragua,” also admitted that in the protests there were “voluntary police officers” and defended as legal the way they acted.
“We have what we call voluntary police” which was established (…) in the law of the National Police (…) that also has its specific missions (…) participates, together with the professional police, in preventive actions (…) participated as established by our legal norms, not as the right wingers says,” he maintained.
Diaz said that, in the case of professional police officer with their hidden faces, the regulations “legally establishes that we can use what we call ski masks, to protect our identity.” In the video, the police chief appears accompanied by Inspector General Jaime Vanegas, who in the end reinforces Diaz’s version.
The ex-lieutenant interviewed by Confidencial said that at the end of June he decided to defect from the Police, after receiving orders to repress the demonstrators. “I did not agree with the repressive policies of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. The people, the state, paid me as policeman for their safety, not to kill my people. For honor and because the life of a citizen is worth more than what I earned. I was making 11,500 cordobas [around 350 USD]. That is why I resigned from the Police. They harassed me, they gave me persecution and finally I had to emigrate from my country, because I couldn’t stand it anymore.