Relatives of three youth assassinated in Jinotepe, Masaya and Esteli tell how they’ve been kept from honoring the victims’ memories.
By Yader Luna (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – Jose Manuel Narvaez Campos was killed by police and paramilitary on July 8, 2018. He died during the government’s so called “Operation Clean-up”. During this operation, armed government forces violently dismantled the roadblocks and barricades protesters had set up in Jinotepe.
His mother, Eva Ruth Campos, is now suffering the additional pain of not being allowed to honor her son’s memory. His grave has been desecrated. Every time a Mass is held in his memory, the ceremony is surrounded by hostile police, who persecute the mourners.
“There’s no respect for our grief. They don’t let us mourn properly. They deny us the right to hold any kind of commemoration,” said Eva Campos. This past April 18 was an example of that cruel tactic. The police and paramilitary laid siege to Jinotepe’s San Antonio Church, where she and other mothers were attending a commemorative Mass.
The mourners were unable to leave the church for another three hours after the Mass. This isn’t the first time this has occurred. “They haven’t let us hold a single Mass in peace,” Eva lamented.The next day, while participating in an activity of the April Mothers’ Association in Managua, they were once again harassed. This time they were followed by a large group of police and paramilitary on motorcycles. The contingent pursued them all the way to the bus stop at the Central American University.
“They harassed us, they threatened us, they stole the commemorative books from some of the mothers. Those were books dedicated to the memory of our murdered sons. They dared and provoked us to get off the bus, but we decided to ignore them. The other people on the bus were surprised. They told us that those people were crazy,” Eva Campos recalled.
“They can’t hurt my son anymore”
Campos termed “irrational” the police deployment to prevent them from “giving tribute” to the memory of their sons. These are mothers of children killed by the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega.
“We’re a defenseless people. They’re the only ones with weapons here, but that won’t stop us in our search for justice,” Eva Campos insisted.
Due to the pandemic, and also for her safety, Eva hasn’t been able to visit her son’s tomb in Jinotepe. She fears that Sandinista zealots could have desecrated it again, as occurred in October 2019.
On that occasion Sandinista fanatics wrote all over his tombstone. “When I’ve gone to the cemetery, the police always surrounded me, so I stopped going,” she admitted sadly.
“Even if they damaged his tomb, that doesn’t hurt me. It doesn’t hurt my son either – they can’t harm him anymore. But I wish they’d respect the place,” she stated. She also urged “that they leave the living in peace, but also our dead.”
Teacher unable to honor his son in Masaya
Alvaro Gomez, a teacher, criticized the Nicaraguan government for not allowing him to honor the memory of his son. Three years ago, the youth was killed by a gunshot to the chest, amid the demonstrations against the Ortega government.Gomez’ son was 23 when he was killed, a university student who also worked in the free trade zone. He bore the same name – Alvaro Gomez.
Gomez senior lost a leg defending the revolution, during the first Sandinista government (1979 – 1990). Now, he accuses the Nicaraguan government of not allowing him to peacefully “grieve” for his dead son.
The teacher made his denunciation from the atrium of the San Miguel Archangel Church in Masaya. A special Mass in memory of his son had just been offered there by Father Edwin Roman. However, dozens of police and Sandinista sympathizers surrounded the church, while Mass was being said.
Why so much hate?
“Why so much hate? Why the fanaticism? Fanaticism has led our people to where we are today. Where are we headed? You don’t let me celebrate a Mass. Why don’t you let me mourn in peace?” Alvaro Gomez posed these questions to the police cordon preventing family and friends from placing floral offerings on the spot where the youth was killed.
“I can’t go to Church to honor the memory of my son? That’s hate. What’s all the hate for?” The teacher shot these words to a Sandinista sympathizer across the street, whose face was hidden by a motorcycle helmet.
“In the eighties, we thought we were defending a Revolution, so that there’d never be any more Somoza’s. During that decade, I went to defend that famous [Sandinista] revolution. I believed I wasn’t ever going to see another Somoza. But what we have here is another millionaire family,” Gomez stated. He was alluding to Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.
Gomez challenged the Sandinista supporters to let people demonstrate in the streets. “If we’re just a few handfuls [allegations made by Vice President Rosario Murillo], why don’t you let us demonstrate? What are you afraid of?” he asked.
The Sandinista sympathizer accused him of defending the “oligarchy” and the Nicaraguan “bourgeoise”. “Come see how I live,” Gomez responded. He added “Daniel Ortega hasn’t worked in over twenty years, and he eats 1,000 times better than you.”
They tried to scare him off
“I can hold my head up high, very high. I won’t sell out for anything. They wanted to come to
my house and scare me off with the murder of my son. But they couldn’t, nor can they ever,”
continued the teacher.
He boasted of his Sandinista past. “Go, ask about me. I went off to defend the fake circus of a revolution that I believed in. Don’t talk to me about revolution, no one can tell me about revolution,” he declared.
The teacher criticized the “fanaticism” of the Sandinistas, in the context of the social, political and human rights crisis.
Following the Mass, relatives and friends of the murdered youth waved Nicaraguan flags, and released balloons and confetti in a sign of protest. They also yelled: “Long live a free Nicaragua!” “Freedom for the political prisoners!” and “Justice for the victims!”
The right to honor the victims’ memory
Antonia Urrejola, president of the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, criticized the actions of the Nicaraguan government. She noted that families have a right to honor their loved ones who died during the protests.
“The right to honor the victims, the right to remember them, the right to keep their memory alive, isn’t a crime,” Urrejola wrote on Twitter. She was responding to reports of police harassment experienced by relatives of the assassinated youth.
A patrol wagon crowded with police burst violently into the prayer session that Francisca Machado was holding in memory of her son, Franco Valdivia. This took place in Esteli, on April 20th. It marked third anniversary of the day that Franco was shot and killed during the protests.
The police agents struck, kicked, verbally attacked and threatened Francisca, her daughter Francys Valdivia, and the mother of Franco’s child and another two youth.
Francys Valdivia is president of the April Mothers’ Association. She affirmed that none of the victims’ family members have been able to mourn peacefully in the country. She noted that other families in Masaya, Tipitapa, Ticuantepe and Managua have undergone similar attacks.
“How can you mourn in a country that doesn’t allow you to hold any kind of commemorative act? A country where there’s no possibility of going out on the street, and you can’t even hold a Mass?” she questioned.
Valdivia was arrested and held for an hour at the Esteli police station. Previously, police had prevented her from holding a Mass in the city cathedral, in memory of her brother.
“The Ortega-Murillo regime wants us to forget what happened. In addition to stealing Franco’s life, they want us not to do anything to preserve his memory, or his soul,” Valdivia alleged.
Stripped, groped and threatened
After being detained, Valdivia’s group was taken to the police station. There, Esteli Police Chief, Alejandro Ruiz Martinez told them Nicaragua was “at war”. At such times, he indicated: “anything could happen.”
“He told me it would have been better for me to have stayed out of Nicaragua. That I talk too much, and that they’re mourning the 22 police who were killed. That they’re never again going to allow the demonstrations,” Valdivia stated.
While the police chief gave them these warnings, an official accompanying them tried to intimidate them. “He showed us the bullets from a gun they had, while he told us they can solve everything with a bullet.”
“At the station, they also stripped us, groped us and took photos. That’s the way they think they can make us keep quiet about their crimes.” Francys Valdivia added.
Includes information from the EFE news agency.