“She said she hadn’t come to accuse anyone, that she wanted justice for her son’s death,” said Jessell Gamez, daughter of one of those accused.
By Maynor Salazar (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – Benigna Mendiola looked over at the accused. She then gazed at Judge Edgar Altamirano, head of the Ninth District Criminal Court in Managua and exclaimed: “I didn’t come to accuse any of those who are here. I want my son’s murderer to pay for his crime.” This phrase from the mother of Lenin Mendiola, killed by a bullet last August 11 in Matagalpa, left those present in confusion.
The woman spoke again, insisting that she had come to the trial to “ask for justice” for the death of her son and declaring that those not guilty “should be set free.” At the end of her intervention, she greeted from a distance Abdul Montoya Vivas, accused by the Prosecution of being the one who supposedly shot at Mendiola and caused his death. The accused returned the gesture. All those in the room were newly puzzled.
Jesell Gamez, daughter of Rogelio Jose Gamez Martinez, who’s also accused of being implicated in Mendiola’s death, heard clearly everything that Benigna Mendiola said; she later confirmed it with the help of her lawyer. She believes her father and the other accused parties are innocent. She also considers that the words of Mendiola’s mother are proof that even she doesn’t believe in the altered version offered by the Police.
“The official media didn’t include any of this in the news. She said that she hadn’t come to accuse anyone, that she wanted justice for her son’s death. We believe she knows that none of those who are accused killed her son, because otherwise she would have pointed an accusing finger at them. She was clear, and if the government media ignored the moment when she said all that, I think it’s for a reason,” Jessell Gamez affirmed.
The trial of Montoya Vivas and Gamez Martinez began on October 22. The District Attorney’s office has accused them and three others – John Leonardo Amort Paiz, Noel Valdez Rodriguez and Omar Antonio Aviles Rocha – of participating in Mendiola’s killing and of gravely wounding Uriel Antonio Blandon Hernandez. This version of events was rejected by the defense and by the family members of those implicated.
Two months ago
On August 11th, hundreds of citizens held a march in Matagalpa, demanding the liberation of the Ortega-Murillo regime’s political prisoners. The mobilization was attacked by Sandinista sympathizers, who fired shots from inside the Matagalpa City Hall. This “rain of bullets” took the life of Lenin Mendiola and wounded Blandon Hernandez.
The Police immediately informed via a press note that “the gunshots came from terrorists that participated in the march, during the moment that they were passing the front of the Matagalpa Mayor’s Office. They hit Lenin Mendiola in the back, and he died later while being taken to the hospital.” The Police subsequently carried out raids in the city and captured Montoya Vivas, Gamez and Amort, and later the others alleged to be involved.
However, two people who participated in the mobilization, and who asked to omit their names for fear of reprisals, stated that Mendiola wasn’t in front of the mayor’s office, but a block away when he was shot. In addition, they declared that the shots came from inside City Hall and not from another place, as the Police described.
“We began to run. A woman came up beside us and passed by us, bleeding. We saw another person who was left lying by the Mayor’s Office, we thought by a bullet. Later, we ducked into a store, waited a little while and then continued walking, trying to find a way out of that area,” the woman told us.
The attack by the Ortega sympathizers wasn’t returned by the demonstrators. “We didn’t have any arms, rocks or mortars. We began to run. We took cover from the volleys of bullets by advancing hunched up behind the cars. It was horrible,” affirmed another participant in that protest march.
The shots were heard all through the nearby streets. Some videos that circulated on social media show the citizens fleeing from the area to take refuge. Other images show the government sympathizers shooting at the population.
A key witness
Laura, one of the people who participated in the mobilization that day told Confidencial that none of those accused of Mendiola’s death and Blandon’s wounds are guilty of the crimes the prosecution is accusing them of.
Although she wasn’t asked to be a witness in the trial due to her poor health, Laura stated that on the day of the march Vivas and Gamez were participating in the mobilization, but at the moment that the events occurred, they were up ahead, so that it’s “impossible that they could have shot” at the victim.
“During the marches that we in the Blue and White movement were holding, the mayor sent people to film everything. They’ve filmed the person who killed Mr. Mendiola. They murdered Mendiola a block from the City Hall. It was one of their own snipers. It was all planned, because the paramilitary came out of the downstairs part, and they were the ones who shot at us,” Laura expressed. She, too, asked to omit her full name for safety reasons.
This witness added that neither Amort nor Valdez participated in the mobilization, nor did Aviles Rocha.
“They captured Mr. Amort inside an establishment, and the others weren’t at the march. They want to put the blame on innocent people who haven’t committed any crime. I know what I’m saying: I saw Mr. Abdul and Nacho (Gamez) ahead in the march, not behind,” Laura emphasized.
Jessell Gamez, daughter of Rogelio Jose Gamez Martinez, agreed with Laura’s version of events. She affirmed that there’s a video in which her father can be clearly observed running along one of the Matagalpa streets, fleeing at the moment that the paramilitaries were doing the shooting.
“My father is innocent. All the ones they’re accusing are innocent. The lawyer has the video and they’re going to present it as proof,” highlighted Gamez’ daughter.
The trial against the five accused citizens will continue next Thursday, since once the initial allegations were concluded, the D.A. requested a suspension of the trial.