On July 19th, while the Sandinista Front was celebrating the anniversary of the 1979 defeat of the Somoza dictatorship, party followers of the new 21st century dictatorship carried out a new political killing in the municipality of La Trinidad in the department of Esteli.
The citizen, Jorge Luis Rugama Rizo, was executed in cold blood by a 45-caliber bullet to the neck, shot by Abner Pineda, a functionary of the Sandinista City Hall in Esteli. Pineda was riding through the neighborhood in a caravan of FSLN sympathizers.
Family members of the victim and neighbors who witnessed the crime both agreed that the killing was premeditated and malicious, after Rugama yelled, “Long live a Free Nicaragua!” The assassin then stopped the caravan, got down from the vehicle, readied his pistol and reacted with a violence that can only be explained – but never justified – by the irrationality rooted in hate and political fanaticism.
Like thousands of Nicaraguans who have been repressed and persecuted since the April 2018 civic rebellion for waving the blue and white national flag, Jorge Rugama was stigmatized and killed for expressing the same demand for freedom. He was killed by an FSLN activist who felt protected by the authoritarian powers. Amid the dysfunctionality of a government that has triggered its own political crisis, it seemed “normal” to Pineda to exercise political violence with his own hand.
Ortega and Murillo, of course, are no longer really governing, only ordering and commanding. However, it seems that they also can’t control all the fanatics and paramilitary involved in their exercise of terror. Like the guard who killed Eddy Montes in the “El Modelo” jail, and the paramilitary who killed US citizen Ariana Martinez in Matagalpa last year, the man who killed Rugama in La Trinidad probably didn’t wait to be given an order to kill, because he was used to practicing violence with impunity.
These aren’t isolated cases, but the extremely dangerous symptoms of a crumbling regime that has forever lost the support of the people and sustains itself in power only through the force of arms, backed by a violent and fanatical minority.
There’s no doubt about who’s directly responsible for the political killing in La Trinidad, even though family members of the victim and human rights advocates doubt that it’s really possible to achieve justice through the regime’s tribunals. The question we should be asking ourselves is if the country will remain unmoved by this crime, or if we’ll be able to place the intellectual authors and accomplices of the killing in the dock as well.
In referring to these latter, I’m speaking in the first place about those who imposed the police state that has curtailed all our rights – freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, and freedom of expression – while giving the paramilitary an open ticket to persecute, threaten and even kill citizens who reject the regime. I refer also to those responsible for the hate campaign that, from the highest levels of the state, has criminalized the right to civic protest and has sold the perpetrators of violence the illusion that their crimes would be forever left in impunity.
The rulers are equally responsible for the political assassination of Jorge Rugama and for crimes against humanity. Sooner or later, they’ll have to be accountable when brought before a judge. Because after the April 2018 killings, and this is the main departure from the past, the demand for justice without impunity has occupied a priority spot in the national agenda for democratic change.
The conviction that there can be no democracy with impunity, nor governability at the price of justice, is without a doubt the most important political change that is taking shape in the new Nicaragua.
In La Trinidad, the change began a day after the assassination, when despite the menace from the police state, hundreds of citizens came out on the streets to accompany the body of Jorge Rugama to the cemetery, in defiance of the regime.
The hope for change lies in the unity of the new Blue and White majority and in people’s determination to organize from below in all of the country’s municipalities. That’s the best homage that could be offered to a citizen who gave his life when he shouted, in the name of all: “Long live a free Nicaragua!”