|Central American University - UCA
Number 444 | Julio 2018
The government’s policy of terror has created a dilemma for the Army
Rather than accept that its days are numbered,
the government has organized and armed shock troops
made up of ex-police and army personnel, gang members,
municipal workers and common criminals.
Together with the anti-riot police,
this hooded repressive mob is in charge of waging
the Ortega-Murillo government’s strategy of terror.
The legacy this bloody strategy will leave is bleak,
but right now it poses a dilemma for the Army,
which can no longer stay on good terms with
both the government and the people,
as it has attempted to do so far.
It’s hard, if not impossible to fully analyze the complexities of the civic insurrection and socio-political crisis that have been Nicaragua’s daily reality since April 18.
From a safe, serene dream
to a bloody, terrifying reality
Before April 18 official rhetoric repeated ad infinitum that Nicaragua was “the safest country in Central America,” virtually a tropical Iceland. Based on very dubious police statistics, the government boasted that Nicaragua’s homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants was the lowest in Central America and one of the lowest in all of Latin America and the Caribbean.
In under 48 hours, Nicaragua was abruptly awakened from its peaceful, propaganda-induced slumber and, newly aware of the deceit, took to the streets in protest. Suddenly, the idyllic shroud came crashing down. The disproportionate and bloody repression that met the first university protests unmasked the regime’s criminal countenance. Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo have elected to abandon the government they headed up, but in a way that leaves Nicaragua in the ashes of destruction, enveloped in the bleak aftermath of an uncontrolled violence that has multiplied the number of dead, wounded, abducted, arrested, tortured and disappeared.
“A systematic policy
of violent repression”
As the second month of April’s civic uprising comes to an end, Gonzalo Carrión, the legal director of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), stated with conviction that “the full extent of the government’s criminal repression has yet to be measured. We cannot stop counting the dead because the regime hasn’t stopped killing.” CENIDH calculates that some 200 young people have been illegally detained or forcibly disappeared in those two months from the start of the uprising.
The preliminary report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), presented on May 21 in Managua, recorded 76 murders, more than 860 wounded, in excess of 400 violent, illegal detentions and a huge but as-yet undetermined number of disappeared between April 18 and the date of its publication, a little over a month later. The reason for the inexact figures is that the police refuse to provide statistics or alter the numbers at will, especially of the wounded, disappeared and imprisoned.
Then on May 29, Amnesty International presented in Managua its own report, titled, “Shoot to kill. Strategies for repressing protests in Nicaragua.” Erika Guevara-Rosas, AI’s Americas Director, denounced the continued police use of a “lethal strategy of repression against protesters” as a “systematic policy of violent repression.”
This strategy of violence has been conducted by the police and the government’s paramilitary forces, among which we must include “los motorizados,” armed attackers who move throughout the country on motorcycles. Day by day the bloody outcome of these actors’ activity increases.
After the IACHR and AI visits, the killings only increased; according to CENIDH, these two months of protests have seen an average of three people killed per day.
Repression was their only
answer to the surprise
The Ortega-Murillo government didn’t expect the youth who gathered the afternoon of April 18 at a shopping center in central Managua to support pensioners protesting Ortega’s decree reforming Social Security to continue their protest after being attacked by a mob of Sandinista Youth and anti-riot police. Even less did they imagine that in just two more days a civic rebellion would be underway throughout Nicaragua.
The regime was taken by surprise. Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo were not prepared to respond responsibly to this unexpected uprising. Since neither truth nor reason nor justification was on their side, their bewilderment led them to the only response that guaranteed their securiy: repressing the protests with Nicaragua’s highly trained anti-riot police.
The brutal, sustained repression unleashed from that point on, which only grew worse over the next two months, still didn’t have the anticipated effect. It actually increased the civic resistance throughout the country with breakneck speed. This is the scenario before me on June 19, as I finish up this text, witnessing yet another repressive onslaught against the city of Masaya and its indigenous barrio of Monimbó, led by police troops and accompanied by the illegal forces trained and armed to implement this systematic policy of violent repression.
authors of the violence
Two legal texts Ortega reformed in recent years, the Constitution and the Police Organization, Responsibilities, Career and Special Social Security Regimen Act (Law 872), establish the President as the Supreme Chief of Police. Article 10 of Law 872 stipulates that, as such, the President has “at his disposal the Police force and its means according to the Constitution and applicable laws.”
This puts Daniel Ortega at the very top of the Police chain of command. It makes him the first and primary person responsible for that institution’s actions, and thus also the first and primary person who has to answer for the killings, the thousands of injured—some for life—and the dozens and even hundreds of people captured, abducted, tortured and disappeared.
Once justice begins to be applied, it must start with Daniel Ortega and, by extension, Rosario Murillo, who controls the structures of the paramilitary forces through the FSLN’s Councils of Citizens’ Power (CPCs), territorial political secretaries and most municipal authorities.
Ortega and Murillo have transformed Nicaragua into a battlefield where two forces are facing off in a conflict defined by total asymmetry. On one side are the anti-riot police, snipers and paramilitary forces, all armed to the teeth. On the other, a populace armed if at all with rocks, slingshots and homemade mortars, hardly a defense against the onslaught of state and para-state forces.
authors of the violence
In order of responsibility, the intellectual authors, or masterminds, of this systematic repressive violence are followed by its institutional authors.
The latter are the members of the National Police chiefs of staff (general deputy directors, the inspector general and 22 general commissioners whose job description is apparently unspecified). They also include the heads of the special police areas, in particular Intelligence, Public Safety, Judicial Assistance, Special Operations and Internal Affairs. The heads of territorial department and regional police delegations also fall into this group, as do the chiefs of police districts in the capital.
The health minister should be added to this list of institutional authors as well, as she gave the order to withhold medical care from injured protesters at the beginning and at other points during the wave of repression. Directors of public and private hospitals who heeded this order and passed it down to the doctors under their responsibility also bear responsibility. The mayors of many municipalities are just as guilty, having hired and directed paramilitary forces, acting in coordination with the police.
How should anti-
riot police act?
The main task of specialized riot-control and anti-riot police forces around the world is to maintain public order by controlling mobilizations, marches or protests, to avoid any risk these events pose to other people or to public or private property. Their action is to maintain, control and, when necessary, restore public order.
They use protective uniforms (body armor), shields, helmets and, in some cases, hoods to hide their identity; and have at their disposal non-lethal dissuasive measures: specially adapted rifles for rubber bullets, tear gas, batons (known in Nicaragua as “amansalocos” or “lunatic tamers”), pepper spray and Tasers. These specially trained agents deploy to the front lines, thus coming in direct contact with protesters. Behind them, other groups of agents set themselves up, with less protection but greater mobility in case they need to make arrests or reinforce certain locations. These two groups are then backed up by a third, which is usually armed with dissuasive weapons: tear gas and rubber bullets.
This is how it works around the world, but not in Nicaragua. Here anti-riot forces, paramilitary groups and snipers from the Special Police Forces execute the orders of Ortega and Murillo along with those they receive from police chiefs.
The perpetrators of the violence
Nicaraguan anti-riot police forces are not adhering to international protocols and standards for deployment and action.
In addition to rifles adapted for shooting rubber bullets, they use rifles that shoot lead bullets and even weapons of war, such as AK-47 assault rifles. They wielded these rifles against young people who died in the first days of April’s uprising and have continued using them against the protests, even during their incursions into Managua’s barrios and other parts of the country.
Nicaragua’s anti-riot police show no evidence of having received training in containing crowds. Rather, they attack and fire point blank at the protesters. What’s more, when a protest becomes violent in whole or in part, anti-riot police must operate under the strictest of regulations and with proportionate force, using the least harmful means possible to disperse the crowd of protesters.
In Nicaragua they don’t control groups, much less crowds. They shoot to kill, and that’s what they’ve done to university students since April 19. They did it on May 30, Nicaraguan Mother’s Day, when they opened fire and allowed paramilitary forces and snipers to shoot, killing several young people and terrorizing those who participated in the march. The march that day was the biggest yet of the civic uprising, supporting the mothers of those killed and demanding Ortega and Murillo step down.
The triangle of death
Even more problematic than the chaotic deployment of Nicaragua’s anti-riot police, who don’t use the back-up normally set up as a second line of support, is that they are accompanied not only by paramilitary forces but also by Police Special Force snipers. These shoot from relatively distant high positions for the strict purpose of decimating the protesters.
The snipers aren’t paramilitary forces; nor are they Army personnel, as some initially speculated. They are police officers, systematically and continuously trained for this action. There is particularly revealing evidence that many of those who died were killed with bullets by snipers using Soviet-era Dragunov rifles, whose telescopic sights ensure high-precision shots with guaranteed deadly capacity. At this very moment, I am looking at a photo of one of these police snipers aiming a Dragunov in Masaya.
One doctor who has cared for those wounded during the prolonged repression mentioned that the snipers’ bullets, the same ones the military uses, hit directly in the “triangle of death”: the head (frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital lobes), neck or thorax. They shoot to kill.
Nicaraguan journalist Ileana Lacayo is quoted in Amnesty International’s report as stating that “the majority of deaths are all the same. They are sure shots, a single accurate shot to the head or the jugular or the chest. They are shots meant only to kill. They are professionals. These are not stray bullets, they are direct shots, bullets that are aimed against specific people and hit the deadliest spots. The killings are the same around the country.”
Amnesty’s report indicates that of the 36 deaths by firearms reported by CENIDH from April 19 to May 2, at least 22 were caused by a single shot to the head, neck or chest.
The hock troops made their debut in 2008
Call them turbas (mobs), shock troops, paramilitary forces, parapolice forces or death squads... The armed groups that accompany the police, nearly always hooded and indiscriminately referred to by any of the preceding names, are far from a novelty invented in this cruel phase of systematic violence. They’ve existed in different forms since 2007, the very first year of Daniel Ortega’s new government.
They made their first public appearance the following year, when the government recruited young people from demobilized gangs previously operating in Managua’s marginal barrios. The recruiters looked for names and addresses provided by the police, presumably to avoid directly involving that public force. Armed with clubs, baseball bats and metal tubes, the ex-gang members were sent out to attack civil society organizations when they took to the streets denouncing abuses and making demands. In the protests rejecting municipal election fraud in November 2008, these youth acted massively, beating down many protesters. The next year they mercilessly attacked protesters in a march organized by the Civil Coordinator.
Little by little protest marches began to falter, until fear of repression brought them to a complete halt. Nonetheless, these shock troops organized early on harbored a sense of impunity: they knew they had total freedom to attack people, as police forces turned a blind eye. On one occasion Police Chief Aminta Granera even tried to justify police inaction, claiming without the slightest blush that they refrained from intervening “to avoid greater bloodshed.”
More organized mobs in 2013
The Ortega government’s mobs continued to evolve, debuting a new and different way of organizing in 2013. In the dawn hours of June 22 five years ago, shock troops attacked young and elderly people alike who for days had been peacefully protesting outside the Social Security building, demanding a minimum old-age pension. Some were also holding a sit-in in the building itself.
That student movement, #OcupaINSS, was the first in Nicaragua to demonstrate the power of social networks to rally people, and it was repressed with incredible violence. The new repressive format involved workers from Managua’s municipal offices, Sandinista Youth members, attackers on motorcycles and undercover police agents. This time the shock troops didn’t just beat up the protesters, both young and old. They also stole cars, motorcycles, computers, tablets, cell phones and wallets with cash, credit cards and personal identification.
The regular olice, present during the events, did nothing to defend the citizens or detain the attackers. Nor did they investigate or bring charges against anyone, despite the plethora of evidence presented. The violent attack went unpunished, plunging the youth and their families into fear.
Organized by the government,
trained and armed by the police
This April 19, when youths began to fall during the protests, the government shock troops shooting at them used yet another new format.
In flagrant violation of Article 95 of Nicaragua’s Constitution, which strictly prohibits “the existence of armed bodies on national soil, aside from those established in the Constitution, i.e., the Army and the Police,” the Ortega-Murillo regime now has organized forces comprising undercover police, former police and military personnel, municipal government workers, “historic” former FSLN combatants, common criminals and gang members, both active and demobilized. It’s a mistake to call the latter Sandinista Youth because they are really gang members in disguise.
This mass of hooded and armed repressive agents are besieging and attacking the peaceful marches, now joined by the police. They attack residents defending themselves at the protective barricades raised in numerous cities; they lash out at peasants and others who defend highway roadblocks around the country; and they shoot at students entrenched in university campuses.
Mercenaries and death squads
The members of these shock groups are paid between 200 and 500 córdobas per day (some $6 to $15), which makes them mercenaries, albeit very cheap ones, in service to the Ortega-Murillo government.
These paramilitaries have networks of barrio informants, organized by the para-party CPCs, which act as the regime’s political intelligence units. Their mission is to identify those participating in the protests, raising and defending barricades and roadblocks, and supporting or aiding the university students. They deliver that information, replete with names and addresses, to the paramilitary agents, who are then in charge of raiding the listed homes, capturing, abducting, torturing and even killing the people fingered by these informers. The CPC networks clearly constitute a kind of political police force for the Ortega-Murillo regime, not without reason dubbed by some as the Nicaraguan Gestapo.
The IACHR has called the shock troops “parapolice forces.” Nonetheless, by their nature and the tactical operative deployment under which they function, they are essentially paramilitary forces. Despite being trained and armed by the police, they have military capacity and are not organizationally subordinatef to police command, although admittedly those who lead the operations are sometimes police former police agents in civilian clothes, accompanied by “historic” former military personnel and supported by snipers from the special police forces.
Amnesty’s report clearly indicates that “the Nicaragua State has the obligation to dismantle the repressive structures, parapolice groups and armed third-party agents that are operating in the country, which must be investigated and brought to justice, as well as to reestablish legitimate and proportional use of force, in the framework of the rule of law.”
The Ortega-Murillo government shamelessly denies the existence of these groups, which it maintains and provides with arms and ammunition of all caliber (AK-47 rifles, shotguns, pistols and revolvers), as well as unmarked vehicles with full tanks (double cab Hilux pick-up trucks and motorcycles) that circulate throughout the country sowing terror, just like ISIS terrorists.
“There are no shock
troops in Nicaragua”
Amnesty’s report also clearly shows that “based on information gathered during our investigative mission, we conclude that between April 19 and May 12, 2018, lives were not only arbitrarily ended during the protests and with excessive use of force; we further conclude that based on the pattern identified, a large number of cases could be considered extrajudicial executions. This serious violation of human rights, which is also a crime under international law, refers to the deaths intentionally caused by State security forces or by paramilitary groups, death squads or other forces composed of individuals who either cooperate with the State or are tolerated or condoned by same.”
Despite the IACHR and AI reports, and the seemingly endless evidence (oral testimonies, legal complaints, videos, photos, etc.), the Ortega-Murillo government cynically and brazenly boasts in an official document published on May 31 that “there are no shock troops or paramilitary groups loyal to the government in Nicaragua.”
In practice, Ortega
and Murillo are terrorists
What began as university protests against Social Security reforms in April almost immediately took an unexpected strategic shift into a national uprising demanding justice for those who lost their lives and the democratization of the country. This implied the end of the Ortega-Murillo government, the subsequent dismantling of the existing state apparatus and the construction of a new instituionality that would be authentically democratic.
In the world view of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, the only possible response to the insurrection has been the use of paramilitary forces to instill terror among the populace, as a perverse, criminal strategy to wear down and discourage those participating in the protests, barricades and roadblocks, as well as those thinking about participating. In practice, this makes them terrorists.
The paramilitary terrorists are an irregular and lawless force whose mission is to sow terror through killing, abductions and torture. In their “off hours” they use the weapons given to them by the police and the vehicles provided by the central government and its institutions and by municipal authorities to act as criminal gangs, stealing, mugging and looting. They feel free to do this thanks to the impunity they enjoy for their service to the regime. They are quite obviously getting away with it.
Is the Army neutral?
At midnight on May 12, four days before the National Dialogue was to begin, Masaya was the target of the first attack by police forces accompanying the shock troops. At the time, the Nicaraguan Army’s General Command released a sibylline statement in which their most daring call was for “a halt to the violence and destabilizing actions.” The statement sidestepped mentioning either the intellectual authors or the perpetrators of the violence.
It also avoided any mention of the police and paramilitary forces’ monopoly on the use of force; the Army apparently felt comfortable in its new role as silent observer. Its commanders appeared to be distancing themselves from the Ortega-Murillo regime by expressing sympathy for the families of those killed and backing both the dialogue and the Nicaraguan bishops’ work as “mediators and witnesses.”
Hours before the statement was released, the Army’s spokesperson asserted that “not one soldier [was] involved in the acts of repression.” It was also preceded by declarations by the head of the Sixth Regional Army Command (Jinotega and Matagalpa), in which he affirmed that the Army would not shoot against those peacefully protesting.
Passive or veiled complicity?
Why did the Army apparently distance itself from the Ortega-Murillo regime and continuies to do so?
The first thing we should underscore is that the General Command of the Army did not explicitly condemn the criminal repression in its May 12 statement. The second is that the position they are taking can consequently be classified, as it was by Luis Carrión, an FSLN National Directorate member in the 1980s, as “passive complicity.” Slightly less kindly, it could alternatively be called “veiled complicity.”
Several facts serve as evidence, to wit: 1) the unnecessary flight of two Army helicopters over the seminary buildings while Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo were inside attending the National Dialogue; 2) videos showing paramilitaries entering and leaving the installations of the Army’s Military Hospital in government vehicles, and 3) a father who recognized two soldiers among paramilitaries attacking his son.
Other evidence includes the June 12 flight of an Army Air Force Antonov 26 plane over critical points of the civil insurrection in Managua before police and paramilitaries attacked them; the planes that flew over several cities spraying cypermethrin, a contact neurotoxin that causes the neurons’ sodium channels to stay open, producing uncontrollable nervous impulses. While not fatal to human beings, it can produce chronic effects such as vomiting, dizziness, vertigo and migraines. And then there’s the photo taken by a protesting youth in Nagarote of a soldier in dark blue uniform with a PKM machine gun, a war weapon exclusively for Army use.
To all these examples, the Army only gave a half-baked explanation for the case of the vehicles carrying paramilitaries at the Military Hospital. The Army spokesperson assured that they were bringing wounded police, and that their AK-47 rifles were seized and later returned to the police with written and signed records. The Army has remained suspiciously silent, complicit, regarding the others, adding further doubt about the military’s implicit neutrality suggested by the May 12 statement.
The risk of being
the moderating power
If Luis Carrión and others saw the Army’s statement as a “positive declaration,” some have taken it even a step further. They demand that the Army intervene to put an end to this crisis.
Perhaps due to desperation or limitations in their analysis, those partial to the Army’s intervention have a confused, extremely short-term vision and haven’t considered the serious danger it could pose for the future of democracy in Nicaragua. To grant the military the role of arbitrator of the crisis, to call on them to act as a moderating power is a serious risk, as British writer Samuel E Finer warned in his provocative 1962 book The Man on Horseback: The Role of the Military in Politics.
It is equally crucial to keep in mind Carrión’s point that if the Army disarms the paramilitaries, it would also have to disarm the police, because both are executing Ortega and Murillo’s criminal orders.
Without paramilitaries or police, the regime would be left unarmed and without power, and would collapse, because both forces are what keep it in power. As a consequence, the Army would in fact become the “moderating power,” giving it a political power that by nature doesn’t correspond to it and that should never be in its hands. The doors to the militarization of society would be left wide open and democracy would be subjected to the will of the military. Giving the Army power that doesn’t belong to it and never should be in its hands is a big risk, in which the remedy could be worse than the disease.
Another perspective on
disarming the paramilitaries
Seen from another perspective, Luis Carrion’s explanation that “it’s no longer police repressing by themselves, but also groups that can only be called terrorists, which the Army is obliged to disarm” could make some sense if we establish an analogy between disarming today’s paramilitaries and the pursuit and combat the Army has been engaged in for years against politically motivated armed groups operating in rural zones of the north-central part of the country and the Caribbean Coast.
Since 2010 the Army has been combating groups the government calls “criminals,” insisting they have no political grievances. Maintaining the necessary distance between peasants rearmed for political reasons and terrorist paramilitaries, it would be logical for the Army to disarm the paramilitaries carrying arms illegally, including AK-47 assault rifles, which have restricted use according to Law 510. This automatically makes the paramilitaries criminal groups, which must be disarmed, captured and turned over to the competent authorities, i.e. the police, then tried. In such a hypothetical situation, however, how could the police process these criminals if their forces are conducting “joint operations” with them?
The Army’s game is to
look good to both sides
Faced with this confusing and dangerous reality, it’s essential to ask what game the Army is playing. How does one explain its veiled complicity?
A careful and critical reading of the General Command’s May 12 statement offers possible answers and a hypothesis. One answer is that the military thinks such veiled complicity allows it to look good to both sides: to the regime because it doesn’t condemn its bloody repression and supports it in a veiled way, and to the population, because it thinks people believe its supposed neutrality. If the Army thinks the latter, it’s a severe analytical and political error because the social networks have been circulating profuse evidence of its participation, and its silence regarding this evidence betrays it. “Silence is consent” says a popular aphorism.
Alternatively, neither ignorance nor a mistaken analysis has the Army gambling on looking good to both sides. Political and financial calculations are what lead people to play such balancing acts, in this case emphasis on the financial. The crisis is putting at risk the Army’s multimillion-dollar investment interests managed by the Military Social Security Institute (IPSM) plus the upper echelons’ individual interests. At risk are not only their considerable investments inside Nicaragua, but also, and perhaps more importantly, those abroad, particularly in the United States.
If the Army were to openly support the Ortega-Murillo regime it would find itself in the crosshairs of the US government and Congress. IPSM’s assets could get blocked, it wouldn’t be able to conduct transactions in the US and the military leadership would lose their US entry visas. With the IPSM’s investments frozen, the resources of the Army’s social security fund would experience a spectacular drop, considerably reducing the benefits enjoyed by its affiliates, specifically the officers from lieutenant up.
A historical crossroads for the Army
The socio-political crisis has placed the Nicaraguan Army at a crossroads. It must either abandon its veiled complicity and openly stand on the side of the Ortega-Murillo regime, or condemn the criminal repression but without intervening in the solution to the crisis. Intervening politically corresponds solely to the Civil Alliance for Justice and Democracy, which represents the interests and aspirations of the great majority of Nicaraguans.
If the Army leadership picks the first path they will not only be accomplices of genocide and stain their reputation with the blood of the innocent lives the police and paramilitaries have taken but would also put the corporate interests of the institution and military leadership at great risk.
If they opt for the second path, in my opinion the least dishonorable one left to them, they would have the recognition of the Nicaragua people and the international community and would recover the monopoly of force. The General Command, the Chiefs of Staff and the Military Council have the last say. The future of the institution is in their hands.
The political cost of
the regime’s strategy
By organizing, arming and logistically supporting the paramilitary forces and ordering them to unleash a strategy of terror, Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo apparently thought they would quickly snuff out the civil insurrection.
They were obviously wrong. The repression has reached shameful levels—such as the arson attack on the home of a family in a Managua barrio, in which three generations were trapped and burned to death: grandparents, parents and children—a two year-old girl and a baby of just a few months. According to the survivors, family and neighbors, the authors were the police and paramilitaries. This has only triggered greater indignation and a more determined effort to achieve justice, democracy and freedom. That by necessity implies the departure of the government, architect of this strategy of terror that is leaving “mountains of dead” and “rivers of blood,” as Rolando Alvarez, the bishop of Matagalpa, graphically described in his June 17 homily.
The regime’s strategy has had a high political cost for those who organized it. The repudiation is summed up in three words: “Que se vayan” (They must go). Not only were they wrong to believe they could quash a civil insurrection this way, it probably never crossed their minds what effects their demented decision would have on their own future.
The regime’s dreadful legacy
The current crisis will be resolved relatively sooner, whether Ortega and Murillo want it or not, but it will leave a dangerous and dreadful legacy in Nicaragua that the new authorities and all of Nicaraguan society will have to face. Among many other things it will leave a discredited police force abhorred for all the crimes committed and paramilitary forces equally responsible for those crimes.
The National Police will have to be subjected to an intensive restructuring process, an obligatory reform to purge the police chiefs and troops and determine individual penal responsibilities for the crimes committed. Although this reform will be complex , the worst part of the Ortega-Murillo legacy is the political, armed violence executed by the paramilitary bands, which will inevitably transmute into common criminal violence, enthroning insecurity in the whole country.
The future is uncertain. They will leave, but the undisciplined and uncontrollable paramilitary bands will become armed criminals proliferating throughout the country, some with weapons of war. Highly dangerous crimes with social impact such as murders, armed robberies of people’s homes, businesses and companies, kidnappings, rapes, international drug trafficking, organized hired guns and local drug dealing will multiply to unbelievable levels.
This is not a warning with apocalyptic tinges. Once the crisis is resolved, Nicaragua will be subjected to the common criminal violence that Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo bred by organizing, arming and granting protection and impunity to irregular paramilitary forces. They will have to be held accountable before justice for this crime.
Nicaragua will be left in virtually the same condition as countries that have suffered bloody civil wars, with the difference that what we have experienced in Nicaragua is an admirable commitment to an unarmed civil insurrection.
How to disarm them?
What is to be done with the new organized common crime wave that awaits us? Who will be able to disarm and try these criminals if the police itself colluded with, trained and armed them? The mandate of the Verification and Security Commission, created by the National Dialogue representatives, is too generic and the Commission doesn’t have the necessary authority to take on this task in any event.
Together with Luis Carrion, economist Edmundo Jarquín has also proposed that the Army disarm the paramilitaries. However, that would only be half the task. They also need to be taken to trial. I insist: it’s very dangerous for the future of Nicaraguan democracy to grant the military faculties that exceed those of any military institution: the defense of sovereignty, national independence and territorial integrity. Since the Army doesn’t have the jurisdictional authority, the Police should theoretically process them. But this institution has not only discredited its legitimacy, but is equally guilty of the crimes committed, some of which are considered crimes against humanity.
A UN peacekeeping force?
This vicious and seemingly closed circle has no obvious way out save the establishment of a UN peacekeeping force in the country. It would be granted jurisdictional faculties that would allow its members to capture, disarm and process these paramilitary forces as criminals.
This plan is not outside the field of possibilities. Everything would depend on the political will of our country’s new authorities to request it, and of course the UN’s willingness to do it.
Roberto Cajina is a civilian consultant on security, defense and democratic governance.