Nicaragua’s April Mothers’ Association: “No Peace for Us until There’s Justice.”

Forum with members of the April Mothers’ Association, moderated by Carlos F. Chamorro. / Photo: Elmer Rivas

“The state should turn over to us a list of the police and paramilitary involved in the repression,” states the director of the Museum of Memory, run by the Association. An “independent truth commission” is needed.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – The members of the April Mothers’ Association, which brings together dozens of family members of the fatal victims of the 2018 assassinations carried out by Daniel Ortega’s regime, will continue demanding justice for the killings, even though the District Attorney and the entire Sandinista-controlled judicial apparatus has filed the cases in closed drawers.  Every day, the list of “requirements” for opening a thorough investigation grows longer.

Alvaro Conrado, father of “Alvarito” Conrado, the 15-year-old who was one of the first ones killed by police near the National Engineering University, stated that twenty months after requesting an investigation from the District Attorney’s office, there’s been no response.  On the contrary, they’ve now asked him to find the witnesses and bring them to the government office to make their declarations.

“They won’t move for anything. They want us to bring them the witnesses, the proof. That was the last thing they told us, that we should find the witnesses and bring them there. That’s complicated, because in the case of my son, those witnesses aren’t in Nicaragua anymore; they left because they felt threatened. They’re afraid they’ll be killed because they’re witnesses to the fact that my son didn’t receive medical assistance,” stated Conrado at a forum held at Managua’s Museum of Memory against Impunity. The event was organized by Confidencial and moderated by journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro.

The father of the slain teen added that the District Attorney’s office isn’t an institution that supports the victims of the April massacre. To Conrado and the other members of the Association, the DA, “is no use to us.”  They feel the same way about the police, the other government entity that, in theory, should be there for them when they need to file a formal complaint.

One of the conclusions of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) was precisely that in order to establish the foundation for any investigation, it’s essential that a Special Prosecution be set up to assume the pertinent investigations for each case, since the Nicaraguan District Attorney’s office remains under Ortega’s party control.

However, despite the cry for justice on the part of the victims mothers and relatives, this recommendation from the international group hasn’t yet materialized or even been considered.  In 2018, during the first national dialogue, the principal points on the agenda were democratization and justice; nonetheless, the topic was never taken up. During the second national dialogue, the topic of justice wasn’t touched on either, as the dialogue concentrated on the liberation of the political prisoners.

Despite the lack of momentum to put the topic of justice without impunity on the table, the fathers and mothers of the April victims have refused to resign themselves. They continue to demand that the cases of their children be clarified.

Special Prosecution is needed

Emily Yang Rappaccioli, director of the Museum of Memory against Impunity, explained that, even though the District Attorney’s office has ignored their petitions, the mothers and family members of the murdered have assumed the task of documenting the cases and tracing “a path to truth”.

“We know that an Independent Truth Commission is needed, one that can help us investigate the facts and find the witnesses, because in the climate we’re in right now we can’t carry out that investigation. The information that we have is organized, part of it is on public display in the museum – in fact, there’s a section labeled “Facts” where people can find out how the deaths of our family members occurred,” explained Emilia Yang. Her uncle, Vicente Rappaccioli, was killed in Carazo.

The museum director added that they understand that the information needs to be completed with data that the authorities themselves should turn over to them, but that this won’t keep them from continuing to work on other strategies, not only on a national level, but also internationally.

Susana Lopez, mother of young Gerald Vasquez, who was killed on July 14, 2018, at one of the barricades near the Divine Mercy parish in Managua, added: “We’re going to continue pursuing all roads, and we’re going to follow through to the last instance, right up to the International Court. For that, we’re going to demand a Special Prosecutor’s office, because we know that we don’t have the appropriate conditions here; the legal processes are corrupt and everything is controlled by the Ortega Murillo regime.”

Guillermina Zapata, mother of Francisco Javier Reyes Zapata, killed on May 30, 2018, near the National Engineering University (UNI), calls for both earthly and divine justice. Regarding the latter, she’s convinced that the intellectual authors of their children’s deaths won’t escape “God’s justice”.

“We need to find out who was responsible”

The family members of the victims of the April massacre don’t have high expectations of receiving collaboration from the government institutions to resolve the cases of their children, siblings or friends. However, they trust that at least on the part of the National Police, there must exist known lists of the police and paramilitary who were involved in the clean-up operations and opened fire against the people.

National Police Chief “Francisco Diaz should turn over that list.  There’s a list somewhere that would have to reveal who are the ones responsible,” declared Guillermina Zapata.

Tamara Morazan, sister of Jonathan Morazan, also killed on May 30, 2018 near the UNI university, asserted that the Nicaraguan state should hand over “that truth” to the family members that make up Association, since they have a right to know what happened and to demand that justice be done in each case.

“The police must know who they dispatched to the streets to repress the people.  They have to have those lists. I imagine that, when the time comes for the investigations, when we reconstruct a new Nicaragua, we’re going to have that information. We’re here for that, to struggle and have them reveal to us the people who shot, who acted against our family members. We’re also talking about the intellectual authors that ordered that the young people to be murdered, right up to the person that pulled the trigger,” specified Morazan.

Alvaro Conrad senior indicated that they reject the Amnesty Law [unilaterally passed by the government in June], since the only objective of this ruling was to leave the assassins in the clear and ignore the demands for justice from the victims’ families.

“We won’t be at peace until there’s real justice and the true culprits have been punished.  We’re not going to rest.  We’re not going to stop making our demands until the true culprits are in jail,” he emphasized.

In the same way, Emilia Yang insisted that in addition to fighting for true justice, they were also focusing their effort on promoting laws centered around the victims and their family members, with the necessary international standards. Nothing at all like the Amnesty Law approved by Ortega’s stacked National Assembly.

The future of the Museum of Memory

The shirt that Gerald Vasquez was wearing when he was killed forms part of the collection at the Museum of Memory against Impunity. Photo: Carlos Herrera / Confidencial

The Museum of Memory against Impunity has gathered the stories of 71 victims of the repression, with photographs, videos, memories and over 200 personal objects that belonged to the children and family members of the April Mothers.  The Museum that was set up in the Institute of Nicaraguan and Central American History in the Central American University (UCA) closed its doors physically on December 6th, 2019.  However, it will remain an online option, and you’ll be able to make a virtual visit anytime via the link: www.museodelamemorianicaragua.org.

For the family members of the April victims, the exhibit that was on display in the UCA since October first, not only laid the foundation for constructing historic memory, but also served as a place of reunion for people who came to see it.  Many spectators came from different places where the government repressed the peaceful protest.

Tamara Morazan, Jonathan Morazan’s sister, affirmed that besides providing a space for the families to grieve, the museum was important in dignifying the victims and expressing with pride who they were and what they did before April and during the protests.

“It also helped us to get to know the people who aided our relatives. For example, when they shot my brother, friends carried him out amid the gunfire.  I admire the valor of those kids who wouldn’t leave their bodies lying there. Some have come here,” stated Morazan.

She said that the museum has been a place to recall “our struggle”, and to urge the Nicaraguan people to continue resisting. “In addition to our commitment as families and as an Association, which is that this never be repeated, with this museum we’re talking about not forgetting and no repetition,” Jonathan’s sister added.

“The museum is part of history and the memory of all the young people who were murdered. I have a commitment to my son. My son wanted a free Nicaragua, with democracy. I’m going to fight,” asserted Guillermina Zapata, mother of Francisco Javier Reyes Zapata.

The Museum of Memory plans to grow, with more testimonies and a diversification of these. It will also continue as a living denunciation of the crimes committed against Nicaraguan citizens. The group plans to try to replicate the exhibition in other departments of Nicaragua and abroad.

“We’re thinking about taking it to Costa Rica, the United States, Europe. The exhibit itself closed on December 6, but we’re talking with the UCA about maybe later having a permanent space.  However, the real dream of the Association is to have our own space where our family members can be honored,” concluded director Emilia Yang.


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