Josefa Esterlina Meza was marching in Managua with hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans on May 30 to honor the mothers of the victims of the repression that President Daniel Ortega unleashed in April, when the demonstrations demanding the end of her mandate began. Josefa had attended the so-called Mother of all marches with her children and she could not imagine that a few hours later she herself would become part of the list of mothers mourning for the violence unleashed by the State. That afternoon, when Mother’s Day was celebrated in Nicaragua, a bullet took the life of Jonathan Morazán Meza, just 21 years old and a Graphic Design student. “My son was murdered by the paramilitaries,” says the woman. “He was a sniper,” he says as he shows Jonathan’s x-rays, which show the bullet lodged in the brain, an accurate shot.
It is a month of that violent event that left dozens of dead, known in Nicaragua as the Mother’s Day Massacre, one of the darkest episodes in recent history of a country that fulfills 74 days of living immersed in terror. From that day on, irregular armed groups roam the streets of Managua and the main cities of the country, imposing a curfew from six in the afternoon. Very few people dare to go out and bars and restaurants close their doors at eight in the afternoon. Many parents have decided to take their children out of Nicaragua and those who cannot keep them in strict confinement, because they do not want to go through the suffering that burdens women like Josefa, who since May 30 has not rested in search of justice.
That afternoon the crowd moved forward in a party-like mood, despite the tragedy that mourns this country. Thousands of mothers protested with their children, the grandchildren along with their grandmothers, some of them in wheelchairs. Everyone felt safe in a demonstration unprecedented in the recent history of Nicaragua, which filled six kilometers of the central Highway to Masaya, the nerve center of Managua. Josefa marched next to her youngest son, while Jonathan had gone ahead with some companions. At five o’clock in the afternoon the shots rang out and people ran terrified. Some 5,000 people took refuge on the campus of the Jesuit Universidad Centroamericana, which opened its doors on orders from its rector, José Alberto Idiáquez, while a group of brave young people formed a “human fence” to protect protesters. Among them was Jonathan. Most of the dead from that massacre were young people who risked their lives to avoid a greater tragedy.
“From there came a lot of dead,” Josefa tells EL PAÍS. “I ran to the UCA, with my other son, and called Jonathan on his phone, but he didn’t answer me. He called him so that we could get together and come to the house, but the paramilitaries had already murdered him, ”he explains.
Josefa’s story is heartbreaking. “My son was taken out on a motorcycle. That appears in the videos, it is very clear how they lifted it, how they loaded it to transfer it to a truck. The shot was directly into the brain stem, direct to kill, it was from a sniper, because they are accurate shots. When he got to the hospital, he couldn’t even give his name. I kept calling him on the cell phone and they answered me when I was hospitalized. Then I knew he was my son. They told me he was wounded and I thought they shot him in the leg. I went to the hospital with his dad. He was already in a coma. ” The young man died on June 1. Josefa did not want an autopsy to be performed. “I have no confidence, I do not want to be told that he died of something else, as has happened with the other cases of the hundreds of young people who have died as a result of government repression. They did give me the doctors’ diagnosis, which states that he died from a firearm, shot in the head, ”he explains.
A report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) –which in early May deployed a mission in Nicaragua– affirms that, in accordance with the testimonies received during their stay in the country, they were deployed “as another means of sniper repression with respect to which were elements to indicate a link with agents of the State ”. The report establishes that according to information received from members of the medical personnel of Nicaraguan public hospitals, “numerous victims have been treated with bullet wounds to the head, eyes, neck and chest, as well as to the back.” For this organization of the Organization of American States, “the mechanics and trajectory of the shots would indicate arbitrary uses of lethal force or the existence of extrajudicial executions.” On June 22, the IACHR presented the report in Washington and assured that the violence had left 212 dead. Since that day the blood has continued to flow in Nicaragua.
Josefa assures that she will not rest until the culprits of Jonathan’s murder are punished. At the end of a month of that tragic afternoon that mourned her, this woman says that she will maintain her efforts to prevent the murders of young people from going unpunished and that she will continue to demonstrate until President Daniel Ortega leaves power. “All mothers who have been victims of these massacres must speak out and denounce to international authorities what has happened in Nicaragua. The death of our children will not be in vain. We have to continue this fight to free this country from this dictatorship, just as it freed itself from the Somoza dictatorship. Now there is the Ortega dictatorship, which is worse than Somoza’s. “