They were in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Managua before the coffin of the poet Ernesto Cardenal arrived. They were in uniform with their red and black scarves over their necks. They were there with their slogans “We want peace” and “They couldn’t and will not,” that they shouted to interrupt relatives and friends of the deceased priest, as well as the religious who celebrated the funeral of Ernesto Cardenal.
They were mobs clearly sent by Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, the same government that declared three days of national mourning for the death of Cardenal, supposedly because they “deeply admire” the poet, towards whom they orchestrated a political persecution in his last years of life.
The regime’s propaganda media entitled: “Nicaraguans pay tribute to poet and priest Ernesto Cardenal.” However, the slogans of the mobs soon changed to the cries of “traitors.” They were aimed towards those who attended the funeral mass to pay tribute to one of the most important poets of Latin America.
The Managua Cathedral was divided between the red-and-black mobs and those who arrived dressed in blue and white, raising banners with Cardenal’s face and one of his verses: “Think about those who died.” Before the Eucharist began, Nuncio Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag tried to reduce the tension in the temple. The poet’s coffin was already in front of the main altar, while his relatives and nearest ones surrounded it.
The Nuncio asked people with the poet’s banner to calm down, who had settled on the front of the main altar. The diplomat then went into the group of regime supporters. He asked for the same calm. But they did not listen. Instead, a man responded to the Nuncio plainly: “Long live, Daniel!” Sommertag turned to the man, put his hand on the red-and-black scarf and said: “friend, this is a mass.” The supporter paid no attention to the scolding of the authority of Pope Francis in Managua. He completely ignored him.
Cardenal “is culture, but he was a traitor”
The Bishop of Matagalpa, Monsignor Rolando Álvarez, was in charge of giving the homily. “Create the possibility for citizens to live in peace, with dignity, in freedom, justice, security, democracy…”. Bishop Alvarez could not continue. He was interrupted by the screams of the mobs. Another government supporter told the cameras that the poet Cardenal “was culture, but he was a traitor.”
Luz Marina Acosta, writer and personal assistant of Cardenal, repudiated that the Government had invaded the Catholic tribute to the poet. “They should not be yelling barbarities at Ernesto. He already rests in peace and since he was religious, we brought him to mass. I thought that only people who love Cardenal, who are many, would come, but they sent all these people. These are not spontaneous people. They sent them to fill the church and that is not right for someone of the stature of Ernesto. We clearly know who sent them,” said Acosta in reference to the presidential couple.
The first violent act took place in the middle of the homily, when Sandinista supporters beat and assaulted young Benjamin Aguilar. “My wallet and my computer were stolen, I was coming to mass and a herd of assailants came over me,” he denounced.
That was the prelude to what would come. At the end of the funeral mass, relatives decided to take out the coffin of Cardenal as soon as possible. They decided to take it out through a side door due to the harassment of regime’s supporters already out of control.
Those who protected the coffin were besieged, and when the body of Cardenal was placed in the hearse, the mobs began to push up against those in the funeral procession. Outside the temple, there were government media reporters who lent themselves to harass personalities such as writer Gioconda Belli. Kenneth Chavez, a reporter for the Vice President’s propaganda outlet “19 Digital,” called Belli a “traitor,” while pushing her.
The mayhem was complete when the hearse was able to leave the Cathedral, and Sandinista supporters attacked journalists and people who were looking for their vehicles to escape. The most beaten were journalist Leonor Alvarez, of La Prensa; David Quintana, from the “Boletin Ecologico” (Ecological Bulletin), whose work equipment was also stolen.
The journalist Hans Lawrence, of the Nicaragua Investiga portal, was also taken to the Vivian Pellas Hospital vomiting blood from the beating. The reporters tried to protect themselves in the sacristy of the Cathedral, but the mobs broke the gates to continue attacking them. Neither the Nuncio nor Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes came out to mediate.
When the attack ended, the Sandinista mobs marched towards the public transportation buses waiting for them outside the Cathedral, next to the offices of the General Directorate of Revenues (DGI). Other supporters with red-and-black scarves entered the same government office.
Among the Sandinista sympathizers were three city council people of Ortega’s FSLN party: Omar Saavedra from District I, Jairo Ramos Tablada from District III and Ileana Hernandez, who were in charge of going to Managua’s neighborhoods to recruit the mobs. This time, contrary to the police siege at the wake on Tuesday, at the Montes de los Olivos Funeral Home, there were no riot policemen. Although there were some patrols surrounding the Cathedral.
One of the most outraged individuals by the invasion and disrespect at the mass for poet Cardenal was Luz Marina Acosta, when the regime’s reporters told her that the mobs “had a right” to participate in the funeral mass of Ernesto Cardenal.
“That is false. They do not know him; they have never read Ernesto Cardenal. They don’t even know what Ernesto Cardenal means in the world,” Acosta replied.