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Central American University - UCA  
  Number 478 | Mayo 2021
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Nicaragua

The human face of police harassment

The regime decreed de facto “house arrest” for some 600 Nicaraguans just for being part of the country’s blue and white majority. Police surround their homes and don’t let them leave. About 60,000 neighbors ae thus indirectly affected by this repressive method. This is the story of one of them.

Guillermo Incer Medina

On May 17, it’ll be a month of uninterrupted harassment at my home by the National Police. Around six to eight officers, sometimes in civilian clothes and other times in uniform, come every day from six in the morning until noon or even until the end of the day. Their orders are to not let me leave my house, interrogate everyone who comes and report all my movements. They do this in cahoots with security guards and pro-government neighbors.


Harassment is much more
than just another statistic


The issue of harassment shouldn’t be just another statistic in Nicaragua’s social-political context, as it has huge human and personal implications that should make all of society reflect, especially political actors. Those of us who live under police harassment at home suffer psychological, economic and social harm. In addition, the effects of the harassment transcend the person who is the political target, also affecting family, neighbors and even local businesses.

Psychologically, having police outside your house generates anxiety and it in turn generates insomnia, eating disorders, depression… If elderly people or people with blood pressure or heart problems live in the house, physical effects also appear. The fact of not knowing how long this siege will last and how far they are willing to go implies a lot of mental stress. Thinking that one day they may come in and beat you or a family member, that they can come at night and kidnap you or your child, that they can break into your house and destroy the things you have acquired with so much effort keeps your mind busy and weighs you down.

House arrest is civil death


Economically, if you decide to stay home you can no longer work. If the order is to not allow you to leave you have no possibility of going to your workplace. And if you do have the possibility, you need to strengthen your home’s security measures: bars on windows and doors, locks, cameras, alarms… The costs of your basic services increase if you are home all the time. And if you decide to leave the house, you need to pay rent and purchase all new things to relocate, because under siege you are allowed to leave with nothing more than the clothes on your back. Expenses definitely rise while income decreases. Actually, house arrest is a kind of civil death.

Socially, police harassment polarizes the block, the neighborhood or residential tract you live in. Under these circumstances, differences emerge among neighbors who live next door to each other. Those who sympathize with the government make sure you are stigmatized as a “coup-monger and terrorist.” They make sure everyone knows that those who “ruined the peace” are now under control and won’t be allowed to cause another “mess” pushed by the “empire and the Right. Not only that, they collaborate with the police taking them food, drinks and lending them their bathrooms right before the eyes and patience of the other neighbors.

Those who do not sympathize with the regime despise the presence of the police, whom they regard as a threat to their own security, or condemn the waste of public resources, since the police are exercising political violence instead of procuring citizens’ safety.

The daily cost to the State for police harassment of individuals is approximately US$46 (between food, fuel and salaries for four officers). Each dollar invested in harassment is a dollar not invested in crime prevention.

The last figure I saw, from the Blue and White Monitor, is of 150 active and permanent police harassment cases at homes throughout the country. If one calculates that an average of 4 people lives in one house, we are talking about 600 people directly affected. If there is an average of ten houses on the block and 4 people in each house, we’re talking about 400 people affected per block. That would mean some 60,000 people indirectly affected by police harassment. Among them are children who have to cross through police encirclements and police dogs to go to school and cannot go out to play on the street like they used to. There are also stores that lose clients who prefer to go somewhere else where there are no police. Even street vendors avoid the block to avoid intimidation.

A public complaint and reproach


I had to leave my home with my wife and my two children who are under three years old due to police harassment. I am taking advantage of this writing to lodge a public complaint about this situation and to hold the State and the dictatorship responsible for anything that may happen to us. I will also use this space to reproach political organizations, those that under sectarian ideological arguments and selfish attitudes, impede the opposition forces from consolidating to put an end to the dictatorship in a peaceful way once and for all. I further reproach political actors such as big business, which have the possibility of exercising economic pressure to subdue the dictatorship, but have decided to prioritize their own economic interests while others of us are suffering human consequences. All of them are co-responsible for allowing the dictatorship’s outrages to continue and for preventing the light of hope from ending this nightmare.



__________________________
Guillermo Incer Mdina is a political scientist and a member of the Blue and White National Unity. (UNAB).

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