A Call to Nicaragua’s Police: “Put Down Your Arms”

By William Grigsby Vergara  (Confidencial)

Hours after the massive protest of April 23rd, workers cleaned the stains demonstrators left on the seal of the National Police headquarters. Photo: Carlos Herrera /confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – “Put down your arms, my countrymen on the police force. Stop your acts of repression and join the peaceful protest.”

My countrymen in the police:

Who am I to be addressing you? Just another citizen who doesn’t want to become one citizen less tomorrow. A young man who doesn’t want to feel like a person of great bravery just because he went out on the streets to peacefully claim his rights. No, I don’t want to feel courageous. Instead, as a friend put it so well: I want to feel that I’m free, in a country that deserves a peace that’s different from the peace of the cemetery.

How have you all been since the repression began? Have you slept peacefully? How does it feel to be on your feet all day long, under the inclement sun of Managua, holding a steel rod full of blood that turns out to be the blood that runs in the veins of your own brothers? Do your mothers look at you with the same eyes? Your family members?

I know it’s not easy, it mustn’t be easy at all, and I try to put myself in your boots – seriously. But now the hour has come to assume the responsibilities entailed by the salaries we pay you though our taxes.  I know very well that when you aim your weapons there’s someone above you, aiming even greater weapons.  That’s how it is – they’re your bosses, but they’re not your owners.  You’re not obligated to obey orders to engage in genocide.

The Constitution protects us through you, and not the other way around. No one has the right to take another’s life, when we all know that life has been given to us and doesn’t belong to us. We act as if it belongs to us, but that’s where we make a mistake. Because later, we believe that we can take it away from our neighbor, as if the life of our neighbors also belonged to us. Life and death, two sides of the same coin, are priceless.

I know that the majority of you are young people who entered the police force to defend the blue and white flag. A flag that, nonetheless, today is at half-mast, torn and stained, also by you. It’s not right that a bullet –soulless like all bullets – should every day be piercing the body of a young Nicaraguan who added their voice to the peaceful protests comprised of the hundreds of roadblocks all over the country. Barricades of humble cobblestones raised up to form needed trenches.

With large caliber weapons, you face an unarmed people.  This struggle is an unequal one, not only for that reason, but also because behind the ones who give you the orders, what we have is corruption.  We all have a fundamental right that we should defend, in Nicaragua and in any country in the world: the right to life. And at the moment that right is being violated through a merciless massacre that it’s in your hands to stop. This very day, we could stop the killing, if you, my fellow citizens and police officers, want to.

Believe me, it’s hard to wake every day with the angst to find out if there were new deaths or not in the wee hours.  It’s hard to sleep as well. We don’t want any more deaths, either on the side of the students or from among your ranks.  We don’t want to go on counting victims.  Don’t join the murderous schemes of those who aren’t thinking about you when they send you out to repress, but about their own interests.

What do you feel when you hear the sacred notes of our national anthem: “The voice of the cannon is no longer roaring?” “Nor is your glorious two-toned banner being stained with the blood of brothers?”  What do you feel when you listen to this hymn that you learned to sing in elementary school, standing up straight with your hand on your chest? Did you imagine, when you were children, that one day you’d inspire terror among the boys and girls of Nicaragua? After everything that’s happened, isn’t your uniform weighing heavily on you?

I want to believe that behind those black uniforms, black like mourning, there are human beings and not just shadows.  Human beings that beg to be forgiven and want to be part of a people who today feel panic when they see you in the streets.

William Grigsby Vergara

We know that some police have deserted and others want to, but are afraid. Afraid of what? Afraid to be seen as examples of valor after rebelling out of decency? One day, Nicaragua will be free and you’ll still be among us. Embrace that reality, as well as the responsibility that comes from knowing you’re part of a people who are now crying because of you.

Nothing is more dangerous than fear, my brother police. When the conscience speaks, it’s better to listen to it.  Think about the fact that when one of you falls prisoner at the hands of the students who are defending themselves with homemade mortars, the first thing the young people do is to call the priests to return you back home, alive, with your families where you belong. In contrast, when the students are taken prisoner and get to El Chipote (infamous jail in Managua), the darkest nights of their lives await them.

In Nicaragua, we still hold the hope that no one is torturing anyone else for pleasure. That no one enjoys hitting an innocent prisoner with their rifle butt in order to later strip them and make them inscribe their vital statistics onto a blacklist.

Put down your arms, my fellow citizens. Add your presence to the peaceful protest by stopping the acts of repression against it.  In this way, sooner than later, we’ll all see the new dawn of a country that deserves an end to the violence.

The people will thank you for it. Especially the mothers, with the unbearable grief they’re holding inside them.