The confession of Nicaragua’s National Police Chief Francisco Diaz to the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet, about how the Ortega regime’s paramilitary forces operate, has made it clear that there is a responsibility from the highest level of the police institution in leading these repressive forces.
Firstly, the paramilitaries have never been a group of FSLN supporters who armed themselves to defend themselves against supposed threats, but are an organized force that has a central command from the FSLN Secretariat and Presidential Office and Residence in El Carmen, and that operates in coordination with the National Police.
Secondly, the paramilitaries are a parallel army created by Comandante Ortega, in open violation of the law and the Constitution. And, according to Police Chief Diaz, the members of this force are regular police officers who operate undercover as hooded civilians, but are under the payroll and control of the police command.
Consequently, the Chief of the National Police should be called today before international human rights organizations, and tomorrow before a Truth Commission, to assume his own responsibility as part of the superior command of the paramilitaries; but also, to identify the perpetrators of the crimes and violence, in order to determine their individual responsibilities.
Since the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights presented its preliminary report on May 21, that’s to say, more than eight months ago, it recommended: “dismantle the para-police groups and take measures to prevent these third-party armed groups from attacking and harassing the civilian population.” This recommendation was even approved in the plenary of the National Dialogue by Foreign Minister Denis Moncada, but it was never fulfilled by the Government, and now it is already part of the inventory of the failure of the National Dialogue.
Therefore, in any agenda of a political dialogue to negotiate the necessary reforms to go to free elections, must be present not only the demand for freedom for all political prisoners, but also the disarmament of the paramilitaries and the end of the repression.
And the Nicaraguan Army cannot continue to ignore the mandate of the law and the Constitution to dismantle these paramilitary bands. If, as Commissioner Diaz says, the paramilitaries are regular police officers, the Army can and should identify the members of this force and disarm them, because there cannot be two armies, nor should President Ortega be allowed to continue violating the law, by imposing himself as the supreme leader of the paramilitary forces.
Last weekend we also witnessed the testimony of an ex-police officer, who, like many of his comrades, deserted from the police ranks, refusing to obey superior orders to suppress the citizens during the civic protest.
The ex-lieutenant of the Police, who served for 20 years in that institution and is now exiled in Mexico, revealed in an interview to my colleague Carlos Salinas, what were the orders issued by Comandante Ortega, as Supreme Chief of the Police.
“The orders were precise,” the ex-policeman said: “They said that the Comandante 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 the people that remain alive, that we manage to capture, we are going to prosecute as terrorists.”
During more than a decade, this police officer worked investigating crimes and homicides, but since the rebellion broke out in April, he was assigned a mission of political espionage: surveillance of demonstrations and barricades to identify the leaders of the protests and locate their homes, so that other operative groups could execute illegal detentions, murders and disappearances.
The chilling testimony of this policeman, whom we have called “Eduardo” to protect his identity,” has valuable irrefutable proof on the direct responsibility of Comandante Daniel Ortega in the management of the police and paramilitary repression, and in the orders of “we are going with everything,” to repress and kill the protesters.
Additionally, it reveals the adulteration of this institution that has been turned into a repressive force under a partisan command, in which the professional officers who should be investigating crimes and homicides and protecting public order, are now assigned to carry out political espionage work for others to execute illegal captures, and even killings and disappearances of citizens who exercise their right to protests.
“Eduardo” is not the first police officer to defect by refusing to comply with orders to repress. Many of his peers have faced those same dilemmas of conscience when they are ordered to carry out repressive tasks. However, the country needs more National Police officers to reveal their truth to the nation, to shorten this process of pain and suffering.
In a peaceful revolution, change turns irreversible, when those who have the weapons and the control of the force, refuse to continue killing and repressing the population, and stop being instrumentalized by a corrupt leadership that has betrayed the principles and values of the national institution.
“Eduardo” has taken a decisive step, and we hope that other officers of the National Police and the Army, who are in these institutions for a patriotic vocation of service, also share their testimonies, so that the repression comes to an end.