Nicanotes: Why are the Police Not Able to Control the Violence in Nicaragua?

Nincanotes : A blog about nicaragua by solidarity activists
This guest blog was written by an internationalist living in Nicaragua who asked that their name not be used for fear of retaliation by violent factions of the opposition.

The role of the police in Nicaragua’s current crisis is a key one. From the opposition standpoint, they are the source of most if not all the violence. Yet in practice, ever since the national dialogue began in response to the demonstrations and deaths in mid-April, the police have been operating under severe constraints. Here are some examples.

First, on May 11 the Catholic bishops whose role is to mediate a peaceful settlement demanded the police be withdrawn as a precondition for the ‘national dialogue’ that then began. This order has meant they aren’t on the streets doing their normal police duties. The order hasn’t been strictly observed, but it’s been an important restriction on what they can do. In some areas such as Estelí the policing policy denied the opposition the pretext of more numerous student deaths, and thus won over public opinion.

Second, ever since at least April 23rd police were ordered not to use lethal fire which, where the order has been observed, has put them at a disadvantage against murderous opposition gangs who have been using firearms. In Estelí, on April 20th, between 500 and 600 people attacked a small group of police and firefighters who, along with around 150-200 municipal workers, were defending the town hall.
Third, the barricades in the streets have enormously limited police movements. The worst acts of destruction have been in places where the streets are blocked (until a few days ago there were some 200 barricades in Masaya, for example, and Leon has a similar number). In the area where the family house fire occurred in Managua (on Apr 16, with six deaths including two children), there were numerous barricades.

Fourth, police and their families are under threat. So far, nine police have died and scores have been injured. Police on the streets have to patrol in groups – individual police have been captured and tortured. Via social media the police are being blamed for most if not all the violence, exculpating the opposition gangs. In the case of Masaya and some other places, the police have been under siege in their own police stations (for Masaya it was for over a month).

Fifth, the nature of the attacks being carried out makes them very difficult to control – opposition groups arrive in large numbers, and can quickly throw Molotov cocktails or set off mortars to start fires before police can get to the scene. The sheer number of attacks is also a huge problem – for example the health ministry has issued a 100-page report detailing attacks on health centers, vehicles and staff. The education ministry produced a similar report.

Sixth, police numbers and equipment are limited. Since 1979 Nicaragua has not had the ‘militarized’ police force that exists in Honduras, Mexico, etc. – they have no armored vehicles, just open pick-ups. The whole model of policing has been based on trust between population and police, which largely existed until Apr 19.
Finally, in many incidents there is real confusion as to who are police or not, as many uniforms and police vehicles have been stolen, and reportedly the opposition have had imitation uniforms made. This reinforces the claims that the police are the source of all the violence. The latest tragic death of a child in Managua (Apr 23) was blamed on the police, even by the parents. Yet a neighbor who videoed the shooting recorded one of the gang members from the barricades shouting ‘I shot the child’. Once this was published on social media, the neighbor’s house was set on fire.

Nicanotes is not claiming that the police are the innocent parties in the present unrest, but the investigations by bodies such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and Amnesty International have been extremely one-sided. The constraints on the police, and the violence they have had to endure, must be properly recognized in the detailed assessment of human rights violations that the IACHR is due to carry out.


The following summary of the past week’s violence is authored by Nan McCurdy, an internationalist who has lived in Nicaragua for decades.

Opposition paramilitary kill young man in Jinotepe
19 Digital, June 25
Twenty-three-year-old Cristopher Roberto Castillo Rosales was murdered by hooded armed men on motorcycles in his neighborhood, Ana Virgin Noble, in the early morning. His brother is Sandinista militant Ferson Castillo Morales. Roberto’s father, Roberto Castillo Cruz said, “I ask for justice. And I ask that the human rights organizations take note of all of the atrocities so they won’t continue to do this – my son was brutally gunned down”.

Violent groups destroy seven INATEC training centers, June 25
Loyda Barrera reported that seven Technical Training Centers of INATEC (The National Technology Institute) were destroyed between April 18 and June 23. INATEC is a government technology training program serving families and businesses. Infrastructure was damaged; equipment, furniture and vehicles were stolen in Leon, Masaya and Chinandega. Barrera most lamented the murder of the accountant at the center in Boaco Jorge Gaston Palacios Vargas, and the kidnapping of the Director of the Juan de Dios Munoz Center, Melvin Chavez, who was badly beaten. INATEC is working on how to reactivate the centers and restart classes for more than 48,558 students from 91 municipalities who have not had classes for over two months due to the violence.

Violent groups burn the Town Hall and campus in Matagalpa., June 25
Armed hooded delinquents attacked at 9:30am. They ransacked and stole materials from the building and set it on fire. Firefighters arrived in time to save the heavy equipment used for building and repairing roads.

Policewoman killed in Nagarote bringing police deaths to twelve.
La Voz de Sandino, June 25
Armed hooded gangs attacked a group of citizens, municipal workers and police in Nagarote today killing policewoman Zaira Julissa Lopez. The group that was attacked was removing roadblocks from the streets. Lopez is the twelfth police officer killed since April 19, 2018.

In Leon, two shot removing roadblocks
La Voz de Sandino, Channel 10, June 25
The population together with municipal workers and their machinery and police removed roadblocks on principal thoroughfares in San Felipe and Hermita de Dolores neighborhoods in Leon. The population had suffered for a number of days because of the roadblocks and the vandals stationed there who were violent and caused chaos. [As I was finishing this piece I heard that delinquents attacked the people taking down the roadblocks and two people were shot.]

UNESCO: Nicaragua denounces crimes against national patrimony.
La Voz de Sandino, June 25
A delegation from the Nicaraguan government denounced to the United Nations Organization for Education, Science, and Culture (UNESCO) crimes against cultural patrimony as well as effects on education. Reports were delivered to UNESCO of crimes against cultural patrimony and education. The texts stated that those carrying out the attempted rightwing coup use hate, fear and destruction as weapons to destabilize the country and infuse chaos.

Masaya Citizens take down roadblocks.
Channel 4, June 25
The Masaya population is taking part in removing roadblocks to have free circulation, peace and security. Many of the roadblocks had already come down and today people were cleaning the rest of the trash. Workers, students, small, medium and large venders were back at their normal routine today.

More teachers tortured and schools affected by vandalism.
Channel 2, June 25
In total 23 teachers have been affected since April 18, including nine teachers who have been kidnapped and tortured. Two teachers have had their homes ransacked. One teacher was run over. Many more have been threatened. Fifty-one schools have been damaged.

The Education Delegate for the municipality of La Concepcion, Walter Torrez Vivas, was run over by Eniel Sanchez Garcia in a clear attempt to kill him. In Jalapa, Lilliam Peralt, a counselor, was threatened and her home was ransacked by thugs. In Rio San Juan, professors Carol Luque and Amparo Lopez received death threats with the words written on the walls and doors of the school. The school was locked because the threats included burning it down if they continued to hold classes. In Jinotepe, the food warehouse of the Education Delegation was ransacked. In Masaya, the Hermanos de Japon School was ransacked and destroyed. This was one of the best-equipped schools in Masaya and served 682 students. On June 20 in Sandy Bay, the Jonny Jocker school was ransacked and all the books and student information was burned. In Nueva Guinea, on June 20 at the Corino Obando Palma Center, hooded thugs burned educational material and damaged much of the infrastructure.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights arrives to participate in Dialogue. Radiolaprimerisima, June 24
Two lawyers from the IACHR arrived in Managua. Two more will be coming to participate in the Dialogue. They are part of the MECENI Special Mechanism of follow-up for Nicaragua. The representatives told the media that first thing Monday morning they will meet with the members of the Catholic Bishops Conference who are mediating the dialogue.

FMLN Expresses Solidarity with Nicaragua
TeleSur, June 24
The governing party of El Salvador condemned the vandalism suffered by a society that was winning enormous ground in the area of citizen security. “From here, our solidarity is with President Daniel Ortega and the FSLN. We know that you will advance with wisdom, patience, with respectful dialogue, and with strength like you have already shown,” expressed Medardo Gonzalez, General Secretary of the FMLN. During the Thirty-Fifth National Extraordinary Convention of the FMLN, they decried the actions being carried out against countries governed by the left.

Masaya municipal worker shot dead.
National Police Incident Report, June 24
On Saturday morning the population and municipal workers were clearing streets of roadblocks and trash in the Barrio Ulises Tapia Roa. They were attacked by hooded armed criminals who shot dead Carolina de Los Angeles Collado Delgadillo, a municipal employee.

Caravan for Peace, Stability and Dialogue on Ometepe.
Channel 8, June 23
Hundreds of families drove for peace from San Jose del Sur to Altagracia on the island of Ometepe. On bikes, motorcycles, cars, trucks and buses they expressed their support for the government and their total distain for the report from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. They rejected it for being one-sided – it didn’t report all of the Sandinistas killed by the opposition, the terrorism and torture of people; the destruction and burning of Sandinista homes and public property which has been extensive. They traveled to the town hall with a celebration of Carlos Fonseca, Father of the Revolution. They demonstrated against roadblocks because they stop free-circulation; they cause fear, more poverty and stop progress (even though there are no roadblocks on Ometepe). Many people on the Island make their living from tourism and they are suffering now.

Criminals kill baby with one shot to the head
Channel 8, June 23
One year old Teyler Leonardo Lorio Navarrete was killed by a gunshot to the head near the Polytechnic University UPOLI Saturday morning. There remain a large group of delinquents in the eastern part of Managua where many people have been killed in the last two months, including a US citizen.

Citizens of the municipality of Ticuantepe protest against roadblocks
Accion 10, June 23
Residents of La Borgona, Ticuantepe, protested against roadblocks and in favor of dialogue. They dismantled a roadblock that they said a group of vandals had built. One mother said that only Daniel Ortega has helped resolve our problems.

Nicaraguan Government rejects the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Report released Friday at OAS Permanent Council meeting, Canal 2, June 22
The report on ‘Human Rights in the context of social protests in Nicaragua’ issued on 22 June by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHCR) has been rejected by the Nicaraguan government as ‘subjective’ and ‘partial’. The heavily biased report, running to some 50 pages, makes not one mention of the kidnappings, torture and killings meted out against pro-government supporters and Sandinistas by the extreme right wing opposition and armed thugs, basing its findings solely on testimony received from or reported by members of the opposition or gleaned from media hostile to the Nicaraguan government. It even includes the deaths of people supposedly killed by police brutality who are still alive.

In his address to the Organization of American States (OAS), Nicaragua’s Foreign Minister Denis Moncada said that the report deliberately omits all the armed attacks, sieges, harassment and kidnappings by protesters. You can read the entire Nicaraguan response here:

Workers condemn acts of terror
Channel 6, June 22
Members of the National Employees Union condemned acts of terrorism, violence, destruction and threats by delinquents financed by those attempting to carry out the coup. Domingo Lopez, general secretary of the UNE, in the name of the workers, demanded the immediate fulfillment of agreement #6 of the Dialogue from June 16 which mandates an end to all forms of violence and threats; and the immediate implementation of the removal of roadblocks by the Commission of Verification and Security.

Anti-Sandinistas kidnap and torture Sandinista Youth member.
Channel 8, June 21
Delinquents who maintain a roadblock in Zaragoza kidnapped and brutally tortured Sander Bonilla, a member of the Sandinista youth from Sutiava, Leon. [The video is gruesome. In it a priest appears. People from Leon have identified him as Guillermo Barrios. Although you can only see his clothing at one point he asks not to be filmed and people in Leon recognized his voice. Dozens, if not hundreds, of Sandinistas have been kidnapped, tortured in the last two months. The perpetrators usually take videos and put them on Facebook so it seems their motive must be to terrorize the Sandinista population.] Here are YouTube pages with various videos.

Delinquents ransack and burn home of teacher in Jinotega
Channel 8, June 21
A criminal group ransacked and burned the home of teacher Mayra Garmendia in Barrio Panorama, Jinotega. The group first fired on the house with the family inside. The family was able to flee out the back. Many people in Jinotega express anger and frustration at destabilizing groups that cause horror and chaos.

Managua Citizens celebrate birthday of Comandante Carlos Fonseca
June 23
With a big gathering and a march from the Rotunda Hugo Chavez down the Avenida Bolivar to the Plaza where Fonseca’s remains lie, thousands of people celebrated what would have been his eighty-second birthday. Fonseca is considered the father of the Popular Sandinista Revolution. June 23rd is also Father’s Day in Nicaragua. The Leonel Rugama Cultural Movement offered free artist workshops. There were also concerts to remember Fonseca. Here are some article written this month by his son, Carlos Fonseca Teran:

The supposed attack on the UNAN
Redvolucion, June 23
This history is told by residents of three Managua neighborhoods near the American Nicaraguan School and seven or eight long blocks from the UNAN (Autonomous University of Nicaragua).

Students first took the UNAN in the early days of protest. Today it appears to be held primarily by delinquents. In Lomas de Monserrat, San Angel and Villas de Catalina people of different political stripes live together peacefully, including some famous singers like Katia Cardenal and Norma Helena Gadea. There are also high-level Sandinista functionaries like Francisco Lopez as well as those from private enterprise.

Since April we have had to deal with a lot of roadblocks set up by the students/delinquents all around the area. All night long we hear gunshots and mortars.

About 12:30 am of June 23, we were frightened by a lot of gunshots and yelling next to the three neighborhoods on the main road that we all use to enter. It was armed hooded delinquents trying to get into Monserrat to go to the house of Francisco Lopez. Security guards at the entrance kept them out, but they continued attacking until morning – it was a nightmare.

This morning, June 23, we were surprised in the Monserrat neighborhood by the visit of some priests, members of NGO’s, hooded armed men and media in front of PAEBANIC. They were looking for the delinquents from last night (who were apparently apprehended by residents and taken to the police). An older woman from our neighborhood tried to tell the priests and media what had really happened but the priests shushed her. This group was clearly here to mount a media lie.

The three delinquents caught by the population and taken to the police were released to their families a few hours later.

This is a longer and very interesting story. Here is the link in Spanish.

Armed men burn home of former FSLN Political Secretary.
Accion 10, June 20
Armed hooded men attacked a man and pulled him off his motorcycle leaving him with five shrapnel wounds. He took refuge in a home and the thugs robbed and burned the home in Villa Flor Norte, Managua.