“A Pattern of Executions in Rural Areas” of Nicaragua

Juan Carlos Arce, a human rights defender, affirms: the victims are mostly opponents of the government.

Human Rights Defender Juan Carlos Arce, interviewed on the Esta Semana program.

Fourteen murders are recorded in two months: “There is no intention here to capture, to prosecute, only to kill, he says.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – In the last two months there have been at least six violent deaths in the municipalities of El Cua and San Jose de Bocay, in Jinotega. Even in the municipality of Trojes, in the El Paraiso department of Honduras, where the exiled Francisco Sobalvarro, also known as “Berman,” was murdered. These killings, added to the recent deaths that occurred last week in Mozonte, Nueva Segovia, correspond to a pattern in which the main victims are peasants, ex-military, ex-contras and opponents of Daniel Ortega’s regime.

Juan Carlos Arce, a member of the human rights defenders’ group “Nicaragua: Impunity Never Again,” said that this pattern, resumed by the Nicaraguan state in recent months, is a strategy that had been implemented since 2007, when Ortega returned to power, and the executions were carried out by the National Army and the Police. What is new on this occasion, according to Arce, is that those committing these executions are paramilitaries.

“This year we have registered twelve executions, not including those of Mozonte. But, if we add these two, we would be talking about 14 executions aimed at peasants, opponents, ex-contras. A pattern found in the executions is the viciousness with which the murders were perpetrated. Several of them were shot in the face. Obviously, with this action one is clear about the main characteristics of extrajudicial execution, which is intentionality; that is, there is a clear intention to kill. There is no intention here to capture, to prosecute, only to kill,” explained Arce.

A few weeks ago, Jose Martinez Vasquez, a released political prisoner, was shot several times by a former police officer and paramilitary, according to versions offered by the relatives of the victim. The 27 year-old was transferred from Wiwili, in Nueva Segovia, to Managua to be operated urgently. Despite surviving, doctors indicated that he will not be able to walk again.

Arce said that the Police has not conducted a thorough investigation of the whereabouts of the author of the shooting. For the human rights defender that is another characteristic of the executions that have occurred in the north of the country and in the border area with Honduras.

“There are no investigations by the State, although the Inter-American Human Rights Court, in different jurisprudences, have indicated the obligation to investigate these types of cases. There is no investigation here. There is a pattern that not only favors impunity, but promotes it. In Martinez’s case, the person who shot to kill is very well-known and is pointed out by family members and the survivor, to have weapons. The events occurred a block and a half from the Wiwili Police station; that is, here there is no preventive action by the Police and neither is there a prosecution of the crime, which are the main obligations of the institution,” Arce insisted.

The harassment of Monsignor Rolando Alvarez

Last week Monsignor Rolando Alvarez, Bishop of the Diocese of Matagalpa, denounced the presence of hooded men in the municipality of Terrabona. The priest was presiding over a mass in the area, and when he was about to return to the city, locals warned him of the presence of armed men who were hiding behind the trees.

“I was willing to continue, but at the insistence of the peasants that they wanted to accompany me because they saw danger, an imminent risk, so I wanted to let them do it and indeed the whole community came to safeguard me and the entire work team that accompany me,” Alvarez informed in a press conference.

Arce added that this fact only reaffirms the existence of a “worsening” of the repressive escalation manifested in the use of paramilitaries to execute the operations. The defender said that before these missions were entrusted to members of the Army or Police officers, however, currently those in charge of this type of work are the paramilitaries.

“In the first place, they have nothing to be doing there, because according to the Constitution in Nicaragua a third armed body does not exist, only the National Police and the Army, and there we see clearly a responsibility of the Army, which continues to allow the paramilitary forces to operate with high caliber weapons and murder the population.

Beyond who should carry out such operations or not, for Arce it is clear the “active or passive” participation of the Army by allowing armed groups to be operating and killing more frequently, since a smaller number of violent deaths were registered before, however, now the amount has increased significantly.

“We are talking about an exacerbation that is absolutely worrying and for which the State of Nicaragua is solely responsible, in this case the National Police of Nicaragua, the Public Ministry and the Nicaraguan Army, as fundamental prosecution and investigation bodies,” Arce insisted.

The long-standing strategy

A Confidencial investigation revealed that, from February of 2011 and February 2017, the Police and the Army reported fourteen “clashes” or operations against alleged criminal groups, accused of castle rustling or drug trafficking, refusing to identify them as groups of armed peasant against the regime. However, of these 25 suspected criminals involved, 22 were killed, demonstrating lethal efficiency of the Army and Police, even in “peacetime.”

Arce says it is not accidental that the pattern repeats itself in the last two years. Moreover, he believes that the Ortega-Murillo regime is taking up the strategy that it has been implementing in the countryside since 2007, when he was still working with CENIDH (Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights). and managed to document 25 murders of opposition leaders with these characteristics.

“There was no investigation in these cases. What we saw was the high effectiveness of the Army, mainly in the commission of these operations, that is, there were practically no survivors. It is unknown where the survivors of these operations are. A few years ago in Tamalaque there was a confrontation, as a result a person of the armed group was shot in the head, but he survived, and later was accused in the courts of Jinotega for having killed a soldier. And here is another element to highlight, the National Police had linked him to a cattle rusting gang, which is what they normally do,” recalled Arce.

The human rights defender lamented that instead of doing real investigations in these cases, what exists is a campaign of defamation, disqualification and dehumanization. “They do it to send the message of ‘you are a criminal and deserve to be dead.’ Something like what they did with the students in April, who were treated as criminals, so they deserved to die. That is the perverse logic of the regime,” he concluded.