Nicaragua’s Anti-Canal Leader Says “I Won’t be Silent”

Ramírez’ truck and pick-up sustained over $900 worth of damage. Official cynicism reigns: the police commissioners won’t receive her and are dodging her demand.

Maynor Salazar  (Confidencial)

Francisca Ramirez with her vehicles.
Francisca Ramirez with her vehicles.

HAVANA TIMES – The truck that Francisca Ramírez uses to transport her tubers to market had been in the parking lot of the Nueva Guinea National Police station since November 29.  The front window is broken, the side mirrors aren’t there nor are the lights, and the tarp with which she covers her crops is torn.  The leader of the anti-canal movement also found her pick-up in the same parking lot.  It has a small hole in the back window from a thrown rock and damage to the keyhole on the driver’s side. “You’ve made a mess of them both, you’re all a bunch of hooligans,” the farmer told the officials who were guarding the site.

Ramírez’ vehicles were impounded by the police authorities in reprisal for organizing an anti-canal caravan headed to Managua.  Even though the caravan never left La Fonseca in the department of Nueva Guinea where Ramírez lives, neither the truck nor the pick-up has been handed back to the rural leader.

Because of this, Ramírez – accompanied by the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH) and other organizations that support the anti-canal movement – traveled from Managua to Nueva Guinea last week after a meeting with Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS.

Upon arrival in Nueva Guinea, they announced themselves at the reception desk in the police station, but weren’t received by any of the high command.  In fact, just as the official on duty was telling them “the commissioners aren’t here, they went out to eat”, the rural leader recognized Police Chief Arnulfo Rocha sneaking down the hallways towards the inner police offices.

Ramírez placed a called to the police chief, asking him to receive her and return her two vehicles. Nevertheless, after apologizing a number of times, Commissioner Rocha hung up on her and turned off his cellphone.

The farm leader then called him again, but this time another police commissioner – by the last name of García – intervened, telling her they could see her at two that afternoon. “I’m not going to keep silent!  Everything I have I’ve earned by the sweat of my brow, and you can’t steal it from me,” Ramirez declared in the police station.

Vehicles not returned

The rural leader returned to the reception desk in the police station at the hour that Commissioner Garcia had stipulated.  Nevertheless, the results were the same: no one attended her, and when she tried to call the police authorities, they turned off their cellphones.

The official who did arrive at the site was Gerald Morales, political secretary for the Sandinista Front. “The one who gives the orders here just came in!  Go tell the commissioners to return my vehicles.  They’re mine – I haven’t stolen them!” Ramirez shouted at Morales, who walked as fast as he could into one of the inner offices.

At 3 pm, after receiving no response whatsoever from the authorities, Noel López, a lawyer and notary public, read in front of the police delegation a document establishing that the rural leader had arrived to request the return of her two vehicles, and that she wasn’t received by any of the authorities.

The official statement included an estimate of the damages that the truck and the pick-up sustained, assessed at some 27,330 Nicaraguan córdobas (about US $934), not including labor costs.

Gónzalo Carrión, Legal Director of the Human Rights Center, affirmed that the fact that the police authorities from Nueva Guinea hadn’t received Ramírez, demonstrated Daniel Ortega’s manipulation of the police institution.

“We saw a political secretary enter like Jack in his own house, and no one said anything to him. Ah, but Francisca they held back and didn’t want to attend to her request.  This is the system we have in Nicaragua,” Carrion stated, adding that he expects the vehicles to be turned over to Ramírez in the next few days.

“It’s not expedient for the National Police to continue holding onto the vehicles. Evidently they’re reluctant to deliver them over in front of the media, in front of the citizens.  Hopefully, I’m not mistaken in thinking that they’re going to return the truck and the pick-up to Francisca in the next few days,” Carrión alleged.

“This is just the latest in a long list of systematic Human Rights violations.  It’s an unpleasant, grotesque and inhumane act,” Carrión indicated.

The lawyer assured that there’s a chain of abuses and arbitrary acts exercised by the government, abuses that go well beyond the political arena.

“They’re brutally repressing people with tanks, and then the police give a press conference speaking of acts of vandalism. The lies and the acts are planned with anticipation. They also affect economic activity by destroying the transit routes. These are acts of a criminal nature,” the CENIDH representative said.

Nevertheless, amid the negative events, Carrion exalted the courage of the rural movement, which he termed an eloquent example.

Ramírez left for her home, located in the community of La Fonseca in Nueva Guinea, assuring that she’d meet with the rest of the members of the Anti-Canal Movement to decide what measures to take regarding the sequestering of her vehicles.

“I fear for my life, and I declare Daniel Ortega responsible for what happens to me and my family, and for all the rural residents,” Francisca Ramírez finished.

Amnesty International: Urgent Action

The organization Amnesty International issued a communiqué regarding the situation that is affecting Francisca Ramírez and affirmed their concern that the police action was a reprisal for her work as a human rights defender.  They stated that any further persecution could put her physical integrity at risk.

The organization, which specializes in defending human rights, prefixed its communiqué with “Urgent Action” and is advocating for Ramírez’ rights, informing that she is being harassed by the Ortega government.

“On November 30, hundreds of rural residents were planning to leave their communities and travel to Managua, Nicaragua’s capitol, for a peaceful demonstration against the future construction of the Great Inter-Oceanic Canal, and the possible negative effects of this project on their rights and communities.  In that context, organizations from civil society and the communications media reported acts of violent repression against the demonstrators,” the communiqué states.

Note: the damaged vehicles were finally returned on December 7th.

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