In a closed-door hearing in a Managua courthouse on Wednesday, August 1st, Pierson Gutierrez Solis, former member of the military and an employee of Petronic, the Nicaraguan state petroleum company, admitted killing Rayneia Lima. The 31-year-old Brazilian medical student, died on the night of July 23 when her car was riddled by gunfire in the Lomas de Monserrat neighborhood of Managua, within the guarded security perimeter that surrounds Albanisa, an enormous Venezuelan – Nicaraguan private company. The courthouse, otherwise closed for a local holiday, was opened only for this case.
The most disconcerting part of this expressly mounted process was the delirious account of events presented by the district attorney. The government of Brazil has demanded that the truth of this case be clarified and that justice be done.
The story, according to the Prosecutor’s office is this: On the night in question, Pierson Gutierrez Solis was returning to Managua from the suburb of Ciudad Sandino in his car (license plates M190591). He had gone to the neighboring municipality to look for a locale to rent in order to start a school for taekwondo. Around 10:40 pm, he decided to turn north at the traffic lights near the American School in order to “talk with the security guards of the zone” and offer them “technical training.”
“By coincidence”, the DA relates, the former member of the military was acquainted with two security guards who were on duty that night at a guardhouse located some 25 meters from the entrance to the gated community of San Angel. The two acquaintances were Henry Uriel Navarrete Ramirez and Javier Videa Reyes, both employed by Displuton S.A,. a private security company created by Albanisa to guard its installations and also to guard Petronic, the state petroleum company. Up until recently, Petronic was led by Francisco “Chico” Lopez Centeno, who is also treasurer of the FSLN and vice president of Albanisa.
“Seeing that the guards and the accused knew each other, the latter stopped and got out to talk with them. He wanted to find out if the security company they worked for had offered them any training on self-defense or on the use of firearms, so as to later offer his services to these companies,” the prosecutor’s story assures.
At 10:50 that night, Rayneia Lima, the medical student, appeared on the scene in her car, a silver Suzuki Alto, license plate M170620. The Brazilian was looking for her boyfriend, Harnet Lara Moraga, but according to the prosecutor, she had gotten lost in the zone. The victim kept pulling over and then going forward again in short bursts of speed. In one of those bursts of acceleration, she entered the San Angel area.
“Based on the erratic behavior and movement of the vehicle the victim was driving, the guards told the accused that the car looked suspicious to them. They said they felt that their lives were in danger,” since in the days previous there had been barricades placed nearby by students of the Nicaraguan National Autonomous University.
Given the “suspicious attitude of the Suzuki Alto” (at this date the vehicle is missing), Pierson Gutierrez Solis took a gun out of the trunk of his car “in case of an attack”. The gun was a 5.56 mm caliber M4 carabine rifle that – again according to the prosecutor – the accused had purchased at the Mercado Oriental market.
Lima’s car then took off “at high velocity” and the security guards “got scared”. They ducked back into the guard house after “a warning shot in the air from their shotgun.” Pierson Gutierrez Solis, however, situated himself behind a streetlight and shot directly at the Suzuki Alto. Since the medical student didn’t stop at the shots, the former soldier just kept pulling the trigger.
Although the prosecution says that only one shot went through the car and wounded Lima, details from the forensic analysis of the victim included the fact that there were two high caliber bulled wounds, one in the abdomen and the other in the throat.
“Now wounded, she continued forward and covered some 104 meters towards the south, stopping on the right side of the road. She opened the car door, got out and sat on the pavement,” asserts the prosecution.
However, neighbors in the zone that were consulted by Confidencial described an intense hail of gunfire on the night of July 23. Indeed, there’s a bullet mark on the façade of the Lomas de Consuelo condominium located more than 100 meters to the south of the crime scene. Their account contradicts that of the Attorney General’s office and describes a ferocious attack on the Brazilian.
The prosecution states that Lima’s boyfriend, Harnet Lara Moraga, picked Lima up and took her to the Military Hospital. The young woman died in the operating room; that same night, Lara Moraga also disappeared, [like Lima’s car] To date, the only known statement from the young man was what he told Lima’s friends, the doctors who were on call that night at the Military Hospital. According to these friends, Lara described three hooded paramilitaries as those responsible for the crime.
Nonetheless, in the face of the sudden changes in the police version, Lara – who is the nephew of Ivan Lara, vice minister of foreign affairs – has maintained silence and is under protection in an unknown location. Confidencial learned that up through last week he hadn’t yet offered his declaration to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights who are interested in the case, nor had he offered it to the Brazilian embassy. As of press time, neither of these institutions responded to inquiries whether they had any further contact with the boyfriend of the victim.
Prosecution classifies crime as a homicide
Following their dizzying story, the Prosecution formally accused Pierson Gutierrez Solis of homicide and illegally carrying a firearm. This accusation is a lesser offense than murder and Nicaraguan Penal Code establishes sentences of 10-15 years for homicide, while murder brings a 20-30 year sentence.
“The accusation was for homicide without further classification. This leaves the judge with the legal possibility of classifying it as careless or malicious homicide. Due to a lack of evidence, the judge accepted the guilty plea and, in this way, closed the contradictory investigation,” explained former Attorney General Alberto Novoa. “Generally, this leaves the investigation looking very opaque,” he added.
Although Novoa sees too much evidence of premeditation and malice in this death to classify it as a homicide, the defense team for the former member of the military asked for 10 years in jail, plus one for illegal arms bearing.
“There seems to be a goal of hiding the truth of the events and the perpetrator’s responsibility, in order to separate him from the group he belonged to. According to the background information, he was an organized member of a group that has access to firearms of a restricted character, such as an M4 carabine,” Novoa noted. “He has every right to defend himself, but the truthfulness of the story isn’t credible,” he emphasized.
Gonzalo Carrion, legal team director of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh), the prosecution’s story and the classification of the crimes signifies “killing, murdering”, Dr. Lima once again. “This was murder, not homicide. It’s a murder because anyone who has a rifle in their hands, in front of a car, holds all the advantages. The person who shot with a rifle shot to kill,” Carrion said.
The human rights advocate called the prosecution’s story that the former member of the military bought a war rifle in the Oriental Market “a farce.” Carrion calls it “an irresponsible washing of their hands.”
“The armed forces and the police have control over that type of weapon. Did all the criminals who act as paramilitaries go buy their sub-machine guns in the market? No, of course not – these aren’t sold in shops or grocery stores,” Carrion refuted.
The army has also denied any relation with the paramilitaries who have taken over the streets. While Daniel Ortega has at certain times called them “voluntary police”, or “people defending themselves” at others he’s declared he knows nothing about them and assures that they’re financed by the “coup plotters”. Confidencial has learned that in addition to being a former member of the military and a Petronic employee, Pierson Gutierrez Solis was part of Albanisa’s protection team.
“They’re practically giving medals to the guy: she went looking for her own death, and the guy was ready to kill,” Carrion stated sarcastically. “What’s evident is that there’s a structured killing machine at work. What we’re seeing is an outrage, a shameful declaration, outside of all logic and reason. That paramilitary was in the service of someone higher up. There are other people responsible…they behave in this way because they have orders to kill. Who put that gun in his hands?”