The Ortega regime’s plan of using the negotiating sessions with the Civic Alliance to promote an amnesty was energetically rejected by the Mothers of April Association, which brings together dozens of parents, siblings and family members of the victims of the Ortega-led massacre. The plan was announced by Francisco Rosales, magistrate of the Nicaraguan Supreme Court and a member of the government’s negotiating team.
“From the beginning, we’ve demanded justice without impunity, and based on that position we’re saying to the regime that the dead are non-negotiable. The person who caused the harm must pay one way or another, they must be held responsible for the crimes committed. These were crimes against humanity that can’t be left in impunity,” asserts Lizeth Davila, mother of slain teenager Alvaro Conrado, who received a fatal sniper’s bullet on April 20 of last year.
Ortega’s justice system hasn’t investigated any of the hundreds of cases denounced by the April Mothers. Of all the assassinations from April to September of 2018, the only case brought to justice was the murder of Brazilian medical student Rayneia Gabrielle Da Costa Lima at the hands of a former military officer, who was tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Lizeth Davila declares that the State Prosecutor’s office has left the file on the case of her son – a high school student from the Loyola School – stashed in a drawer, and that they have no interest in finding out who was guilty of his death.
Josefa Meza, mother of Jonathan Morazan, killed on May 30 at the end of the huge Mother’s Day March, declares that the case of her son continues in impunity. Although Meza filed an official complaint with the public prosecutor’s office, this state institution hasn’t opened any investigation at all.
“We haven’t advanced in anything, but we hold onto the hope that when this regime leaves we’ll be able to obtain justice. We know that while they’re here, this won’t be possible, because they were the ones who directly ordered those murders. In Esteli, for example, the mayor took on the task of organizing the groups of Sandinista Youth and the paramilitary,” declares Sara Amelia Lopez, mother of Cruz Obregon, also killed on May 30th.
Lopez explains that she has repeatedly visited the Prosecutor’s offices to inquire about any advances in the investigation of her son’s case. Nonetheless, the response from the officials is that the police haven’t sent over the ballistic tests, and therefore they haven’t had any results.
The April mothers have no doubts about who was guilty of killing their sons. Meza explains: “Everyone knows that the regime ordered the assassinations,” and that it was a massacre directed against all the young people who had gone out to protest against the dictatorship.
“The paramilitary, in conjunction with the police and part of the army, were the responsible parties because all of the murders were from well-aimed shots to kill.
These weren’t novices – our children were murdered by specialists, who targeted them for direct gunshots… There’s evidence and there are witnesses,” Meza insists.
The search for justice
Despite the indifference of the government authorities in investigating the killings that took place during the 2018 repression, the Mothers of April assure that they’ll continue demanding justice, even though they’re clear that this won’t arrive any time soon. They realize that it’s difficult to obtain justice while the regime is in power, running all the state institutions as they wish.
“When this regime leaves, then we believe that we’re going to find justice. Meanwhile, we’re in the struggle, asking the international community to support us in order to continue exercising pressure so that this regime will leave,” Meza indicates.
In order to obtain justice after the departure of the Ortega couple, Davila estimates that first there’ll have to be a general clean-up of all the branches of state, since they’ve been “contaminated” by the presidential couple.
“And if we don’t get it this way, then we’ll start again knocking on doors at the international level. As mothers, we’re interested in obtaining justice and we’ve made a commitment to our dead children to go through to the end. We’re going to achieve it,” Davila reaffirms.
In this demand for truth and justice, there are also people who in one way or another have ties to the government. These are family members of slain officers or paramilitary who also are demanding that their cases be resolved. They’re a smaller group, but they also count among the demands of the Association.
“We know that right now an association of victims among the police has just become known, because they didn’t do this in the beginning. The same regime is to blame for that situation, for killing their own people and this part of the opposition. [You] can’t order anyone killed, because no one has the right to kill anyone,” she considers.
Regarding comments that the topic of truth and justice will cause division in the country, and for that reason it’s “better to turn the page” and talk about elections and political changes, Davila disagrees. She states that while it’s clear that “we have to change” the regime, it won’t bring her son back, so that these two topics should be addressed as a priority.
“I know that this won’t bring him back either, but I’ll feel some peace because the guilty party will pay. This is the way that I think other mothers feel as well.…. They were human beings and valuable, they were our children. They messed with the most valuable thing a woman has, which is her children, and we can’t leave that in impunity.”
Justice at the negotiating table
This week, the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy demanded that the government speed up the negotiations to overcome the crisis.
Up until now, a proposal has been presented and discussed for the release of the political prisoners before the 90 day deadline set on March 20, as well as respect for the rights and guarantees of citizens. The topic of justice, however, hasn’t yet been introduced.
Alvaro Conrado’s mother notes that no one at the negotiating table is representing the association, since the topic of justice is the one that’s been touched on least during the meetings between the Alliance and the government.
“No one can speak in our name – we are the ones who feel the death of our children, and we’re not being represented at the negotiations. They’re looking at political goals, and we’re apolitical… Our principal objective is to arrive at truth and justice,” maintains Davila
Meza adds that they’ll try to have the topic reintroduced so that they manage to debate it in the negotiations and reach an agreement, but with “we mothers” there, because no one can speak in their name.
“They haven’t had victims. Apart from the fact that we speak with our hearts, we also reason and we can’t accept dirty deals under the table as has always been done, to have the businessmen making dirty deals through their personal interests. I don’t believe that we mothers are going to accept that,” Meza asserts.
The mother adds that if the government want to come out with an amnesty, “go ahead and present it, because things are going to turn around and they’re going to be clarified when the moment arrives in the future. We know that this struggle isn’t only for one day.”
Sara Amelia Lopez feels that the hope of achieving justice is something that they’ll never lose, since she knows that – in the short or long term – they’re going to manage to have the investigations and to put the blame on those who are responsible for the deaths of their children.
“We’re learning to survive, because we’re in this tough situation. We were direct victims, and we have to go around being careful about everything, because we know very well how they act. Despite everything that’s happening, we’re alive,” she assures, “We’re not going to give up, we need to go through to the end for our children.”