The era of false news, the manipulation of the truth and the imposition of so-called “alternative facts” as State policy, wasn’t invented by Donald Trump in the United States.
In Nicaragua, it was inaugurated a decade ago, when President Daniel Ortega launched his first offensive against the independent press, referring to the journalists as “Goebbels’ offspring,” while his wife Rosario Murillo, then the government spokesperson and now Vice President – proclaimed the communications strategy of “uncontaminated information.”
Discourses offering false promises with no accountability, and a policy of lying and silencing at will, were embedded into the Executive branch through a system of centralized spokespeople. This system was later extended to all the State Powers, blocking access to public information for the citizens and the press. Meanwhile, the policy included distracting the public’s attention with banal or noteworthy events reported through yellow journalism and violent sensationalism.
The Nicaraguan Army and National Police, institutions known for their autonomy and openness to public debate under the preceding governments, were the last to knuckle under to the dictates of the State-Party-Family system. In the end, though, both succumbed and were coopted.
Police commissioner Aminta Granera and Army General Julio Cesar Aviles were reappointed to their posts thanks to the exchange of political favors with Ortega. They then served as accomplices to the submission of the Police and the Army to political demagoguery. Together they bear direct responsibility for undermining the professionalization of the institutions that had represented the most palpable success of the Nicaragua’s democratic transition.
Perhaps those alterations to the character of the Army and the Police explain – although in no way justify – the shameful silence that both institutions have maintained in the face of the moving denunciation of a rural mother who suffered the horrendous killing of her two youngest children during a military operation in the municipality known as Cruz de Rio Grande last November 12.
According to the official statement from Colonel Marvin Paniagua, head of the Sixth Regional Military Command, on that day the army encountered a band of outlaws in the San Pablo 22 community. They killed six members of the group, but could only identify one of the dead: Rafael Davila Perez, known as “Curly.”
Colonel Paniagua stated that all of the dead were delinquents, known by the producers in the area for “cultivation and trafficking of marijuana, cattle-rustling, extortion, assaults and assassinations. However, when reporters asked him to explain the specific charges against them, or if these had originated in a courtroom, he couldn’t mention any such case, alleging the need to keep the information secure.
Elea Vale has identified at least three of the victims of the military operation: her husband, Francisco Perez, wanted by the Army and brother of the armed rebel and band leader Rafael Perez, alias Comandante ‘Curly’; and her two youngest children – sixteen-year-old Yoieisel Elisabet Perez Valle and twelve-year-old Francisco Alexander Perez Valle. The death of her children, preserved for posterity in a poor-quality color photo as irrefutable proof of the truth, went unmentioned in the official report that Vice President Rosario Murillo offers daily. This demonstrates that there’s a cover-up in process from the highest level of power to bury the truth. Not only have they killed two innocent unarmed minors, who can’t be accused of being criminals, but they also want to kill the truth.
The testimony of this Mother Courage, symbol of the national dignity that resists the abuse of power, like Yelka Ramirez, victim of the police massacre in Las Jaquitas two year ago, is offering a lesson in courage and ethics to a society prostrate in the face of fear, corruption and lies. At the same time, she offers the Armed Forces an opportunity to correct their course, act justly and punish those guilty of the massacre before they find themselves converted into a Pretorian Guard at the service of an institutional dictatorship that aims to prolong itself as a family dynasty.
Her complaint brings the entire society, especially the large business interests, economic allies and principal conversational partners of Ortega, to a moment of truth. No one should remain indifferent in the face of this crime. To remain silent, with the excuse that this was merely collateral damage from the national policy of guaranteeing security in the countryside, is equivalent to offering a seal of approval to the regime and their policy that in practice has translated into a punitive order of “no wounded or prisoners, only deaths in combat. This regime is already governing without democracy or transparency; now, if we remain silent, they will be able to kill with impunity, even minors.
Demanding respect for human rights and an exhaustive investigation of the massacre, as the Bishops from the Catholic Church’s Episcopal Conference have requested, represents merely a first step towards ceasing our permissiveness before the indiscriminate State violence.
It’s true that under the current system, there are scant possibilities that justice will be done. Most likely, the crime will remain unpunished. But rescuing the hope of Nicaragua’s once again becoming a democratic republic, begins with restoring our right to the truth at all costs, and preventing it from being buried in the tomb of the forgotten.
Translated by Habana Times