Note: This article originally appeared in Confidencial in Spanish. It is translated and republished here with permission. To view the original article, click here.
The virulent attack launched by the Ortega-Murillo regime in Nicaragua against the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS) amounts to a declaration of war against the institution, whose recent report on the serious violations of human rights in Nicaragua has been supported by 21 countries in the hemisphere. For the “crime” of documenting the worst massacre perpetrated by the State in a Latin American country in recent memory, the Nicaraguan government accuses the IACHR of political bias, manipulation of facts, and complicity in justifying a “coup” attempt, which only exists in the crude machinations of official propaganda.
President Ortega himself began the escalation of attacks. In an interview with CNN he described IACHR executive secretary Paulo Abrao as a “liar” in an attempt to disqualify the Commission’s report, which detailed 322 deaths at the hands of state and paramilitary violence.
A few days later, the government presented its official report on violence. The report claims that only 198 people died in 98 days, still implicitly admitting that under Ortega’s watch, the worst massacre in the history of peacetime Nicaragua has taken place. Not even the fact that the government intends to hide 124 deaths takes away from the gravity of this admission. Still, history will prove the IACHR report correct, as the names of the missing 124 have been corroborated not only by the IACHR but by national institutions such as the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) and the Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH).
The Ortega-Murillo dictatorship has concocted an even more perverse version of the “false positives,” which gained notoriety during the Álvaro Uribe administration in Colombia. There, the abuses of the army and the security forces, who murdered innocent citizens, were passed off as if they were guerrillas killed in combat. In Nicaragua, the Ortega regime seeks to hide the murders and extrajudicial executions of more than a hundred civilians who participated in civic protests as if they were simply homicides caused by common crime and traffic accidents. Worse yet is that these false positives are intended to re-murder the victims of repression by denying them the right to an identity.
Four months since the April massacre began, the Ortega regime refuses to present a list of the victims of the massacre: the dead, wounded, political prisoners, and disappeared. The only dead whose identities Ortega has publicly revealed are 21 policemen, while hiding the names of more than 300 citizens.
So, if there is any discrepancy between the official government evaluation and that of the IACHR, and if, as the government alleges, these 300 victims died as a result of common crime instead of the massacre perpetrated by the paramilitaries and the police, then the regime should present their list with names, surnames and identity cards, so we can compare it with the already-published lists from the IACHR, the CENID, and the CPDH. There are also families who, in the midst of mockery and pain, have buried their dead. The government now intends to re-victimize those dead.
With the arrival of the IACHR and the Interdisciplinary Group of International Experts (GIEI) in Nicaragua, there was hope that at least the recognition of would be achieved. All Nicaraguans and savvy international observers understood that justice would have to wait for the thorough reform of the Office of the Prosecutor and the judicial system, with international support, under a new democratic government after the departure of Ortega and Murillo. But now we are facing an operation of massive concealment of the victims, orchestrated by the State, to kill the truth. And to leave no doubt that the massacre will remain unpunished, or at the very least negotiated in amnesty to hide the blame of the real culprits, the regime’s judicial system is trying 132 Protestants and sympathizers of “murder, organized crime and terrorism.” No police, paramilitary, or State sympathizers have been arrested.
Despite paramilitary repression, rigged trials against political prisoners, illegal property seizures, massive layoffs of State employees, and persecution of protestors, the Nicaraguan people continue to take to the streets, demanding elections and the end of the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship. Only with national civic pressure and international condemnation at the highest levels can a political exit through elections be achieved in this ongoing struggle for democracy and justice.
Sooner rather than later, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro will have to recognize the Ortega regime as a dictatorship, equal to or worse than the Maduro regime in Venezuela, and act accordingly. It is time to move from words to deeds.