Monopolizing death: Or how to frame a government by inflating a list of the dead
by Enrique Hendrix - Tortilla Con Sal
July 8th, 2018
Presidential Decree No. 03-2018, "On Amendments to Decree No. 975 General Regulation of the Social Security Law" issued on April 18th, was the perfect pretext for the Opposition to initiate a series of protests that began to escalate.
Four days later, in the face of acts of violence and an estimated 23 deaths, President Daniel Ortega decided, on April 22nd, to repeal the Presidential Decree that had served as a catalyst for what looked like an explosion of social unrest.
In that same announcement he called for a National Dialogue as an instrument to restore the security, stability and peace of Nicaraguan families, address the situation of the Social Security system and the possible inclusion of tax reforms for discussion. He also invited Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes to participate in the National Dialogue with a delegation from the Episcopal Conference so that it would serve as guarantor and witness. However, despite the repeal of the decree that triggered the protests and despite the willingness of the Government to seek a solution through the National Dialogue, the protests continued.
The Human Rights organizations began their work of compiling the names of the deceased citizens within the context of the protests. Three organizations stand out: The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), the first body to pronounce itself; the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH), whose participation was requested by the government of Nicaragua on May 13th; and the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (ANPDH), the body that has been most active in relation to the death list.
The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH - founded in 1990 and of which Mrs. Vilma Núñez de Escorcia is president) has issued three reports corresponding to different time periods in the context of the protests.
The First Report issued on May 4, covers April 19th to May 4th; The Second Report issued on May 17th, covers May 1st to May 15th; and the Third Report issued on June 18th, covers May 16th to June 18th. The CENIDH list is not presented as a chart or a table, but as a section within each report which is titled "Killed and wounded as a result of government repression and violence." Note that this title irresponsibly and arbitrarily asserts that the deaths are a direct consequence of the violence on the part of the Government. In the third and last report issued, it is indicated that the total of deaths is 178 citizens, however the First Report includes the names of 45 dead citizens, the Second Report 12 citizens and the Third Report 110, so that the total of the three reports is one hundred and sixty-seven (167) dead on June 18th and not 178.
On May 21st, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH – an autonomous body of the Organization of American States) presented Preliminary Observations on its working visit to Nicaragua from May 17th to 21st and in the context of the protests beginning on April 18th.
Those observations did not include a list of citizens who had died in at the scene of the protests. It was not until June 22nd that the CIDH presented its Final Report on its visit to Nicaragua before the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS), a report in which the list of decedents was attached, accounting for a total of Two Hundred Twelve (212). This appendix is entitled: "List of deceased persons in Nicaragua since the beginning of the protests (April 19 - June 19, 2018)". Note the cynical euphemism of "deceased in Nicaragua since the beginning of the protests", that is, every person who died from April 19th to June 19th, promoting the decontextualization of the same, regardless of the causes and circumstances of the death of each of them and as we will indicate later.
On June 26, the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (ANPDH - founded in Miami in 1986 and of which Monsignor Abelardo Mata is president emeritus) issued a document entitled: "Preliminary Report of Nicaraguan Citizens Killed in Civic Protest as a Human Rights and Executed by Armed Groups (Paramilitary or Shock Forces) for the period: 04/19/2018 to 6/25/2018. (66 calendar days)".
Note that the title shares the same editorial line of the CENIDH, affirming irresponsibly and arbitrarily that all the deaths occurred in the context of "Civic Protest" and likewise attributes their deaths to "Executions by Armed Groups (Paramilitaries or Shock Forces) ". The preliminary report of the ANPDH counted a death toll of 285.
It should be noted that these reports have inconsistencies and omissions in terms of names with incomplete data, inaccurate names or boxes with the indication "No Information" or "Under Investigation". This denotes the lack of disposition and a lack of ability in actual case-by-case investigation, with results limited to information gathered from journalistic sources and those accepted in complaints without no willingness to corroborate the data.
A recurrent feature in the lists is the removal from context each one of the dead and adjudging them as victims of the "repression" on the part of the government. In fact, the lists include victims of traffic accidents, altercations between gangs, murders by robbery, those killed by accidental firing of a firearm and even more absurdly, a suicide. This is evidence of a campaign that, in the absence of a just cause, uses the death of every citizen as a motive to manipulate the emotions of the population in order to counterpose “the people” against “the people.”
It is necessary to know the set of circumstances surrounding the death of each citizen to understand whether that death has any direct or indirect relationship to the protests.
For the purposes of this article, we define "Death Not Directly Related to Protests" as those deaths that occurred outside the scenario of a demonstration, a confrontation involving protesters, the attack or destruction of institutional targets (or FSLN supporters), or the looting of shops.
The adverb "directly” is used to distinguish these deaths from those caused indirectly. As the product of the political and social destabilization imposed on the country, crime has been empowered, taking ground, directly affecting Nicaraguan society and causing deaths, which although not connected to the protests are an indirect consequence of them.
Therefore, efforts will be made to identify the quantities corresponding to the following variables from the death lists of the three organizations:
- Repeated Names
- Deaths Not Directly Related to Protests
- People murdered by the Opposition
- Protesters (protesters, opponents, opposition activists operating roadblocks...)
- Bystanders (uninvolved in the protests)
- Names with insufficient data to determine the context of the death
- Deaths omitted from each list
Sources for the Verification of the Lists
The list of each report was verified name by name with information gathered from newspaper articles and press releases from the National Police. The biggest weakness is that many media outlets are diverting, omitting or manipulating information for political purposes.
The following web pages correspond to most of the sources used to cross-check the lists:
The Press: laprensa.com.ni
The New Newspaper: elnuevodiario.com.ni
100% News: http://www.com.ni
The 19 Digital: el19digital.com
The New Radio Ya: nuevaya.com.ni
National Police: http://www.policia.gob.ni
Newspaper Today: http://www.hoy.com.ni
Q'hubo Nicaragua: http://www.qhubo.com.ni
The Voice of Sandinismo: http://www.lavozdelsandinismo.com
To verify the context in which the citizens cited in each list died, a matrix was drawn up that sought to identify the full name, photo, age, profession, place of death, reason for death, context, observations and the sources for each case.
The matrix is available at the following link:
About the CENIDH Report…
CENIDH has issued three reports whose lists are not included in full in its third and most recent report, because each report refers to a specific period of time. Thus, the Third Report, covering the period from May 16th to June 18th, does not include in its list the deaths that occurred before May 16th. The information corresponding to the previous date is included in the two previous reports.
As for its list, from its three reports, it is possible to identify one hundred and sixty-seven (167) dead as of June 18th. The CENIDH seems to be the most prudent organization in terms of attributing to the Government responsibility for the death of these citizens because upon verification the lists were found to have few duplicated names; the reports try to provide sound information on the context of the death of each of the citizens; and few cases lack incomplete data.
The CENIDH list is not presented as a chart or table but as a section within each report, section entitled: "Killed and wounded as a result of government repression and violence". The names are grouped in chronological order, without reference numbers, and describe at least the full name, age, description of the context of the death and where it took place. For example:
Noel Calderón Lagos, 19 years old, wounded by a bullet due to the repression at the UPOLI at dawn on May 16th. From Department of Managua.”
Regarding the repeated names, 4 citizens were duplicated in the reports. On two occasions, the same name was mentioned in two different reports. In one case the name was incorrectly identified; and in another, a pseudonym of a citizen who had already been mentioned was added.