Grief and Demands for Justice at Nicaraguan/US Citizen’s Burial
“Eddy didn’t die, the government killed him,” yelled the crowd attending the burial.
“They were in a hurry for us to come get the body, because they didn’t want another independent autopsy,” declared Francisco Montes, cousin of the slain political prisoner.
HAVANA TIMES – On Sunday, May 19, hundreds of citizens in Matagalpa bid farewell to the Nicaraguan political prisoner Eddy Montes. Montes, also a US citizen, who was killed by a bullet to the back at the La Modelo prison near Managua. At the burial ceremony, friends and neighbors carried Nicaraguan flags and sang the notes of the National Anthem amid cries of: “Long live a free Nicaragua!”, “Eddy Montes presente”, and “Justice!”
Montes, a lawyer by profession who also served in the US military, was buried among tears, clamor, and calls for justice in the midst of the socio-political crisis that has engulfed the country since April 18, 2018, when the government responded to a citizen rebellion against the Ortega regime with killings and violent repression that left hundreds of deaths and political prisoners, plus tens of thousands in exile.
Relatives and friends of the Montes family gathered in a Matagalpa church, 131 kilometers north of Managua, minutes before leaving for the cemetery. The procession was marked by the grief of his family and of a group of his former fellow inmates who had been previously released to house arrest amid the negotiations to overcome the crisis. Eddy Montes’ life wouldn’t have ended in this way if the government had complied with the liberation of the next identified group of political prisoners, as Eddy had been on the list to be released with this group.
“The government killed him”
“Eddy didn’t die, the government killed him,” “He was a lawyer, not a criminal”, and “[Ortega’s] a criminal, not a President,” shouted the crowd that accompanied Montes and his family, among other slogans.
Some of the Nicaraguans who participated in the ceremony maintained their faces covered, while others carried the Nicaraguan flag as a symbol of protest against Daniel Ortega’s government. They called for justice and to have those responsible pay for the crime of Montes’ death and that of other anti-government demonstrators who died within the framework of the crisis.
These demands refer to Ortega and his wife and vice president Rosario Murillo, as well as to the National Police headed by Francisco Diaz, related to the Ortega’s through one of their son’s marriage. Nicaraguan citizens attribute the violence unleashed in Nicaragua to these three figures.
Montes, 57, who opposed Ortega, died Thursday, May 16, in the La Modelo prison. The authorities affirm that the shots were fired due to a mutiny attempt on the part of a group of political prisoners, while testimony from inside the prison refutes the official version. The latter maintains that it was a directed provocation and attack that left a great number of prisoners injured, among them 17 with serious wounds, including bullet wounds and fractures.
Montes was reported missing in October of last year and was later located in prison. According to testimony that the political prisoners shared with family members, he was shot in the back last Sunday by a guard’s weapon.
The Nicaraguan Political Prisoners Association reported that at least 31 convicted demonstrators were injured during the disturbance and distributed a series of audio recordings and photographs leaked from within the prison. These present a different version from that which the government offered.
Francisco Montes, the victim’s cousin, told the Acan-Efe news agency that they had realized an independent autopsy to determine the causes of death.
“They (the authorities) were in a hurry for us to come get the body, precisely because what they didn’t want was another autopsy, but we held up the release of the body to achieve that autopsy,” he explained.
He indicated that his relative has two perforations: one in the groin and one in the lower back, but that it’s still not known through which of these the bullet entered, and which was where it exited the body.”
“The autopsy will determine if the shot he received was point-blank or from farther away,” he added.
Family members of the deceased hold the state responsible for this death.
US Demands Exhaustive Investigation
The US State Department issued a statement demanding an “immediate, exhaustive and transparent” investigation into the death of Eddy Montes, while reiterating its call for the “unconditional release of all political prisoners.”
“The United States will hold the Ortega regime accountable and all Nicaraguan security forces involved in human rights abuses and violations,” it added.
The State Department called Montes’ death a homicide and said: “We strongly condemn the killing of Mr. Eddy Montes. His death, as well as the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians at the hands of Ortega’s security forces and paramilitaries, as well as the ongoing detention of numerous political prisoners, shows an absolute contempt for human life and democratic freedoms.”
Last Friday, the US ambassador in Managua, Kevin K. Sullivan, also demanded transparency from the Ortega government in the case. The US diplomat informed through Twitter that he met with the Nicaraguan Foreign Minister, Denis Moncada, “to demand a complete and transparent investigation of this tragic event that also left other prisoners wounded.”
“All of them (anti-government protesters) must be released as soon as possible to avoid further suffering and injustice,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry issued a statement regretting the events that occurred on Thursday. “We also regret the injuries caused to the guards of the Penitentiary System,” the Foreign Ministry added, without referring to the deceased or the wounded prisoners.
Ambassador Sullivan noted that he also met with relatives of Montes. He said they “deserve a full and credible report of the unjustified use of lethal force against an unarmed prisoner.”