REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN NICARAGUA
of the “on-site” observation in
Republic of Nicaragua
3 – 12, 1978
RIGHT TO LIFE1
This chapter deals mainly with the events which began on September 9 with
the attack by the Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN) against
several National Guard detachments. Naturally, this does not imply that note has
not been taken of the numerous complaints received by the Commission of
violations of the right to life prior to that date and which are being processed
according to the normal process. Moreover, given its special seriousness, the
disappearance of numerous peasants in recent years is also considered.
It has been decided, for reasons of clarity, to divide this chapter into
the following categories:
Deaths during combat and serial bombings.
Deaths and other incidents involving Red Cross personnel.
Deaths during the so-called “Operation Mop-Up”.
Deaths after the cessation of hostilities.
Disappearance of peasants.
Deaths during Combat and Bombings
After the start of the armed struggle on Saturday, September 9, several
days of intense combat took place in the major cities of Nicaragua. As happens
in every armed conflict of such magnitude, both sides, the National Guard and
the Sandinista Front, suffered loss of life and a considerable number of
The losses occurred as a result of street fighting, and the employment of aerial
bombardment and heavy artillery by the National Guard.
The Commission deplores the loss of any human life, notwithstanding the
circumstances. But, at the same time, it is evident that with regard to this
fundamental right to life, the contending parties have the duty of respecting
the unarmed population which is unable to protect itself. Such duty, as will be
explained in this section, was not observed by the National Guard.
Moreover, the Government of Nicaragua assumed the solemn obligation of
respecting international norms of humanitarian law, especially those set forth
in the Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians in Time of War, signed
on August 12, 1949, which is also applicable in armed conflicts not of an
and which Nicaragua ratified on December 17, 1953.4
Before its arrival in Nicaragua, the Commission received numerous
allegations of a large number of deaths and injuries and significant material
loss among the civilian population due to the indiscriminate use by the National
Guard of serial bombardment and heavy artillery. In order to investigate these
very serious allegations, shortly after its arrival the Commission visited the
cities most affected by combat—Estelí, León, Masaya, Jinotepe and Chinandega.
The Commission closely inspected different neighborhoods in each of these
cities, speaking directly with people who lived there and visiting their homes.
Through the abundant and irrefutable proof in its possession, it was able to
confirm the magnitude of the destruction caused by serial bombardment and heavy
The Commission is totally convinced that the Nicaraguan National Guard
not only used its firepower indiscriminately causing a great number of
casualties and tremendous suffering to the civilian population, but that it also
ordered the people to remain inside their homes before the bombing, without even
allowing them to evacuate, thus violating a basic humanitarian norm.
We quote from some of the numerous cases received, to illustrate this
affirmation. It is important to point out that the Commission investigated a
large number of these cases by visiting the sites where these events took place.
In Chinandega, the Special Commission received the following testimony:
It was Thursday, September 14, when the airplanes began to strafe our
houses in Barrio La Libertad. My husband, my 5 year old daughter and I were
crouched in a corner of our house, crying and thinking that we would die right
then and there because the bullets and shrapnel were destroying our small wooden
house. We decided to go out and seek shelter in a safe place; we left by the
kitchen, my husband with our daughter in his arms. A plane flew very low, it
seemed as if it was coming straight at us, and fired some rockets which hit my
daughter's shoulder and my husband who was carrying her. Everywhere I looked I
could see the heart and intestines of my child; she was in pieces, destroyed. My
husband, who had already lost his arms, took about thirty steps, with blood
spouting every where, until he fell dead. He had a wound in the chest; he had a
part of a still-smoking rocket stuck in his leg. The left leg was bare to the
wanted to lift my child but she was in pieces; I didn't know what to do. I ran
and I got her little arm and I tried to put it on her, I tried to put everything
that was coming out of her back in but she was already dead. She was my only
daughter, and I had a difficult time having her; and I used to dress her up for
parties and spoil her. I don't know what I'm going to do, I'm going to go crazy.
September 28 report from a parochial school in the city of León states:
13, Wednesday: In the morning, an airplane of the Nicaraguan Air Force (FAN)
strafes León and in the afternoon the city is bombed with rockets from the Fortín
de Acosasco, which dominates the southwestern part of the city. The number of
refugees is over one thousand; even the chapel is used.
14, Thursday: At 5 a.m. the first child is born in the dispensary. At
mid-morning a female student of the “Manuel Ignacio Lacayo” school is killed
in her own house by a bomb dropped from a FAN helicopter; like the many other
dead from Subtiava (a neighborhood in León) she is buried in the garden of the
house. Around 2:30 p.m., a reconnaissance aircraft announces that the National
Guard is going to carry out a “military operation,” that no one should open
their doors to the “bloodthirsty communists” since the National Guard will
not be responsible for what might happen. At 5 p.m. the bombing, the artillery,
the endless shooting, and the fires begin. Electricity is cut off and we are
left without water. People sleep crowded together. The crying children lend a
A well-known professional association from León presented a document to
the Commission which in part states the following:
Thursday the 14th, early in the morning, we heard on the radio about
the suspension, decreed by the government, of all constitutional rights and the
implantation of the State of Siege. The army announced through loudspeakers in
an airplane and a helicopter that people should remain in their houses with the
doors locked and not allow strangers in because the National Guard was going to
fight. There had been rumors that the President was going to order the bombing
of the city but no one had believed such rumors since we didn't consider that a
person could do such a thing, that an army would bomb its own people;
nevertheless, at around 9 in the morning, several helicopters and planes, it's
impossible to say how many, flew over the city and to the surprise and terror of
the people of León, the impossible happened. The airplanes and helicopters
suddenly dived and started to drop shrapnel, bombs and rockets which spread
panic among the civilian population. While the civilians remained inside their
houses, innocent victims of the massacre, the insurgents moved to more secure
places. For many more hours, the National Guard continued the destruction and
genocide of this unprotected city. After a brief period of respite, at noon, the
stunned population was victimized by another bombing which started around 4:30
in the afternoon and ended around 7:30 in the evening. The moon illuminated the
city and facilitated the continuation of the bombing during the first hours of
The Commission was able to confirm that Estelí was the city which
suffered the greatest material damage. But, above all, it was at the human level
where there was the most devastation. The Special Commission was able to confirm
that a large number of people from Estelí, especially members of the Bar
Association, Medical Society, Chamber of Commerce, Red Cross, Dental Association
and firemen, priests, journalists and workers, were dead, wounded, imprisoned,
in asylum or in exile, harassed or threatened with death.
In a document presented to the Commission by a professional association,
the events in Estelí are narrated in the following way:
On September 11, Martial Law is imposed and constitutional rights are
suspended. All communications are broken. The National Guard command post is
surrounded. The population erects barricades in the streets. The Air Force
(National Guard) goes into action, bombing the Calvario, San Antonio and José
Benito Escobar neighborhoods, killing many civilians. The city is still in the
hands of insurgents. The confrontations leave an estimated 40 people killed. The
civilian population begins to loot some stores.
Fleeing the destruction caused by the bombings, a large part of the
people seek refuge in first aid posts located in the more solidly constructed
buildings. The Red Cross is constantly harassed, several corpsmen are wounded,
ambulances are machine-gunned. The wounded are forcibly taken to the National
Guard and then shot.
On the 17th there is no electricity or water, and the city is
completely isolated; food and medicine are scarce.
The exact number of unburied dead in the streets and houses destroyed by
the aerial bombings and tanks is unknown.
It is estimated that the National Guard in Estelí during that period was
made up of at least 1,200 men, with heavy weapons and tanks, plus the permanent
support of six National Guard combat planes.
On September 20, there are hundreds of dead in the streets and in houses.
The National Guard has the city surrounded and prohibits any going in or out.
Some families are able to escape by leaving the destroyed city by means of paths
to the mountains.
The National Guard ordered the population of several neighborhoods to
abandon their houses so they could be searched. Witnesses say the systematic
looting that the Guard carried out before finally burning down their homes.
After the heavy attack of the previous day several buildings are
completely or partially destroyed, among them the Bank of America, the El
Calvario Church, the Inmobiliaria building and many other houses hit by the
bombing. Numerous civilians are wounded or killed.
In spite of the heavy serial attack, there is still strong resistance.
More people try to find a way to abandon the burning city. The National Guard
plans to attack the hospital and the Nuestra Señora del Rosario School which is
being used as a shelter for more than 4,000 people, mostly women, children, the
elderly, and Red Cross personnel.
The National Guard “officially” declares that there are more than 90
dead among the civilian “attackers”. Entrance to the city is forbidden to
all journalists who do not have an order signed by a high-ranking member of the
A group of priests, doctors, educators, professionals and ranchers of
Estelí signed on September 18—before the events had ended in that city—the
knowing the results of the first day, that the dead and wounded were not mostly
insurgents but civilians who could not be attended to, we tried to send an S.O.S.
to the outside world to avoid more bloodshed on both sides. We were completely
isolated and with only the internal communication of a telephone which was still
working, we spoke with the Departmental Commander. We wanted to bury bodies and
to tend to the different needs of the people, something which had been ignored.
Ham radio operators, who had been able to cooperate to some extent, had sent a
few messages to the world before they were censored.
Monday the 11th, Tuesday the 12, Wednesday the 13th and
Thursday the 14th, there was fighting within and around the city
between the two groups, with the National Guard using tanks and heavy weapons
against all houses suspected of sheltering rebel fighters.
Friday the 15th, Saturday the 16th and Sunday the 17th
early in the morning, Air Force planes began to fly over the city, and minutes
later they started an aerial strafing, while the National Guard, it seems,
advanced on land. The aerial attack intensified on the population which was
looking for shelter. The people had been placed in improvised first aid
stations, since the houses in the city, due to their zinc or tile roofs and
brick or wood construction, are completely inadequate to protect their
inhabitants from the land and air attacks to which Estelí has been subjected.
that a large number of the dead and wounded were civilians, not part of the
fighting groups, some were cared for in improvised first aid stations, clinics
and the hospital, all of which were operating with great difficulty. The Red
Cross and volunteers have had to give aid under great risk, because there has
been no truce and the neutrality emblems of the Red Cross have not been
respected. Members of the National Guard have gone so far as wounding
volunteers, machine-gunning ambulances and shooting the wounded.
Some complaints of individual cases received by the Special Commission in
the city of Estelí state the following:
Mrs. Reyna Gutiérrez, who had two infant twin sons, was a humble woman
of no means, completely removed from political matters. She had her children in
her arms when she was machine-gunned by the plane. This woman was approximately
30 years old, very poor and lived in a wooden house, helpless and without food.
Ana López was also killed with a bible in her hand, begging God for clemency,
and there she was hit by a bomb from the airplane that bombed this city eight
hours a day, with the intention of killing all the people.
was sheltered in a neighboring house, which was attacked by rockets from the
government planes. Mrs. Ruth Games de Valencia was wounded by a rocket and
operated on in the hospital where they extracted part of a rocket that weighed
one pound, two ounces. Her two young girls were also wounded. Her husband was
wounded in the forehead.
nurse who was also wounded was taken by the Red Cross to Managua.
house was burned in the presence of my husband and children. We begged the guard
not to burn it down but he answered that he had orders from his superiors to
burn “this fucking town”. We took the car out and then the tank and the
machine guns turned on it and the car burst into flames. Thank God we are alive
because we dragged ourselves and we crawled under the flames; our jeep was also
set on fire. My husband is fleeing from town to town because there is a warrant
out for his arrest because he is a militant of the F.A.O. (Broad Opposition
Front), but he doesn't approve of the armed struggle; his struggle is civil
resistance. My family and I only have the clothes on our backs. I'm now living
in the house of a good-hearted friend and she gives us food. My house was on a
corner near the Cathedral.
planes also burned the houses. The Guard also went around with gasoline cans and
started fires. It was horrible. All of us were sick with nervousness. We lived
horrible days. Twenty-one days of anguish and terror, without water,
electricity, or food. The Guard arrived at the house where we were sheltered and
started to search. It's incredible that the Guard took the jewelry right off of
Deaths of Red Cross Personnel
On September 14, the Nicaraguan Red Cross sent a convoy with medicine and
food from Managua to Chinandega in answer to a request for help from that city.
The convoy was made up of an ambulance with medicines, occupied by Dr. Lepoldo
Navarro, Secretary General of the Institution and Director of the Medical
Department, and two members of the permanent staff, and a pickup truck—unit
38—with food, occupied by two volunteers, José Dolores Estrada Granizo and
Marvin Alberto Flores Salazar. Both vehicles were identified with Red Cross
emblems and flags.
The Nicaraguan Red Cross of what happened during that trip:
necessary authorization from the President of the Republic for the mission had
been obtained. I received a photocopy of this document and at 14:00 hours we
started our trip toward León. We took the old road and experienced no delays.
At approximately 15:15 hours we arrived at the crossroad of the Leon-Chinandega
highway, approximately at kilometer 90, where a National Guard patrol prevented
us from going through. The officer informed us that we could not go any further
because “the situation is uncomfortable”. I showed the Government
authorization and the officer told me that despite the authorization it was
impossible to continue as he had recently received order to the contrary. I
instructed unit 38 to follow me and I started back to Managua.
approximately kilometer 78 of the León-Managua highway I encountered a military
convoy made up of three large jeeps of the National Guard, with personnel and
weapons. I told the driver to slow down and the convoy went by. Moments later,
the driver told me that he had lost sight of unit 38, which had been right
behind us. I called the unit three times by radio and when I didn't get an
answer, I told the driver to stop and I ordered him to return to León to see
what had happened. After some two kilometers we saw our unit parked on the
highway with the windows broken and splattered with blood. We stopped 30 meters
away and there was nobody in the pickup.
though that the military convoy had taken them prisoners so I decided to return
to Managua and report what had happened.
we started toward Managua, at approximately 200 meters from our machine-gunned
pickup, a helicopter appeared and shot a burst of bullets. I ordered the driver
to slow down because I thought that the aggression was directed against us. The
helicopter swept by once again and strafed two more times making the leaves in
the nearby trees fly. I immediately got out and signaled with a Red Cross flag.
The helicopter continued to fly in circles over us, but without shooting, until
a National Guard patrol from León made up of two vehicles and approximately 20
National Guardsmen arrived. They got out and aimed their weapons at us and
ordered two members of the patrol to get in the ambulance with orders to shoot
the driver and then the old man (Dr. Navarro) at the least sign of hostility and
told us that we were under arrest and would be taken to León. When we passed in
front of unit 38 I asked the driver to slow down and we could see that the
volunteers were in the front seat, dead or wounded, one on top of the other. The
driver said that both were probably dead.
that time two patrols from León arrived, stopped us and ordered the vehicle
searched. One of the members of the patrol said that a Lieutenant had been shot
and wounded by our vehicle while another said that he had been killed. A search
turned up only food and medicine.
were authorized to return to Managua and one of the enlisted men said softly
that “it had been a big mistake”. I asked if we could take to Managua our
two companions who had already been confirmed dead and when we received consent,
we proceeded to move the bodies of the volunteers José Dolores Estrada Granizo
and Marvin Alberto Flores Salazar, whose head was destroyed by the bullets, from
the pickup to the ambulance. We decided to leave the pickup on the road until
further orders, and we started toward Managua reaching our base at approximately
17:30 hours without any delays, where we found a great commotion due to the
The Commission has in its possession several photographs of the pickup
and the bodies of the corpsmen. These photographs show more than 70 bullet
holes, some of them of high caliber, in the pickup. The bodies were very
The Commission also has a tape recording of this incident in its
possession, and which it deems sufficiently important to transcribe in its
entirety due to its relevance. The dialogue of two people, Colonel Humberto
Corrales, Chief of Staff and Major Anastasio Somoza, son of President Somoza and
Director of the School of Basic Infantry Training (EEBI). Major Somoza was at
that time in the city of León, commanding his troops and in charge of the
mop-up operation in that city, according to information received. The dialogue:
Listen, I'm calling because there is a “hangup” and I want to know
what happened, so I can know that to invent.
Aha, what's the hangup?
A helicopter attacked a Red Cross pickup, the one I told your command
that was going through, then they returned to Managua, in a convoy in which one
part was going to León and the other to Chinandega. When they were returning a
helicopter attacked them and killed two in the Red Cross pickup. You hadn't been
informed about that?
What we were told was that ambulance N° 18 of the firemen, right?, had
been stolen by those people.
Yes, but no, but the ambulance was not number 18 or anything, but it was
the pickup, Tacho, a Red Cross pickup.
What happened there was that the people came from León, came from
And then, I had heard the thing about the ambulance, that was going to
Managua, then they saw the two vehicles together and then they opened fire, they
didn't hit the ambulance, they hit the pickup.
But I reported that that convoy was going, Tacho?
I knew nothing.
Listen, I called Riviera personally and told him: Inform Major Somoza
because we must advise the Guard posts, they got as far as the entrance of León
without any problem, Tacho?
Yeah, there I turned them back.
That's it, that is to say everyone knew, I informed Captain Riviera to
inform you that those people were going, so that you could inform the Guard
posts that they were authorized.
The Guard posts didn't shoot at them, the ones who shot were...
No, I know, but now I want to know what happened? Why did they shoot?
Because they have called me, and they have stuck me with this fucking hang-up.
Just simply tell them that in León, right?
They had stolen the ambulance.
You got the report that they had stolen the ambulance of the firemen.
And that then the firemen's ambulance was going to Managua and then they
were caught by the patrol that was coming here, do you understand?
Sonofabitch, hello (interruption)
Right? Then when they saw the ambulance go boy...
Then, what I'm going to tell them is that the patrol didn't think they
were coming back so soon and so quickly.
Because the patrol didn't know who they were, what happens is that when
the León Command sent the news, saying that an ambulance had been stolen and
had been taken over by a group of guerrillas.
All right. (English).
Do you understand?
When the patrol found it, do you understand, they let the ambulance
through and since the vehicles were together then they hit the one in the back?
Do you understand? You say that the ambulance was stolen with two dead
guards, then León broadcast that, and it was heard by the patrol that was
coming from there to here?
And then, thank God, they didn't hit the ambulance, but the pickup in the
back was screwed, do you understand?
No, but in the pickup that was from the Red Cross, two died.
That's correct, that's why the ambulance went through and when they saw
the ambulance go by they said, there it goes! And then the forward part of the
convoy shot at the one in the back, and then, the pickup accelerated, ambulance
that is, and then they opened fire, do you understand?
It was the patrol.
All right. (English)
It isn't the helicopters that are attacking, but ones that the León
Command reported by radio that they had stolen an ambulance. Was the pickup
Yes, it was blue.
Okay, because they also said that there was a blue pickup that was
carrying people from the guerrillas, do you understand? Now I know that it was a
blue Datsun pickup?
But they didn't hear Datsun or anything, they heard about the ambulance.
They put two and two together and bang!
I'm going to call Mr. Chevalley right now?
Tell them then, that I'm very sorry but, don't tell them that I'm very
sorry, all right?
No, not me, I don't have to say who it is. I have to say that I spoke
with the operations commander.
Exactly, no? and tell them, that the León Command broadcast the news.
That a blue pickup and an ambulance were going.
Because they have been bugging me from the moment it happened and I told
him, look, I can't because everyone is fighting here, right? I can't interrupt
the network because of what happened; I promise you to have an investigation and
tell you exactly what happened. You can be completely sure that there must be
something very strange for something like that to have happened, see?
No, we already made friends with the Red Cross, but tell them that the
guerrillas insist on using Red Cross ambulances.
Do you hear?
All right, Tacho (English), listen, I wish you luck, be careful and don't
go fucking around, do you hear?
Forget it, today my girl stopped nearby.
Well then, don't be a fool.
This dialogue essentially confirm the account of the Nicaraguan Red Cross
and moreover, that the National Guard was well informed about the existence and
itinerary of the Red Cross convoy. Therefore the attack is inexcusable. The
version of the events invented by Major Somoza in his dialogue with Colonel
Corrales is another example of the lack of respect of the National Guard for the
Red Cross, its members and its humanitarian activities.
The Commission also has reports on two volunteers wounded in Chinandega
who were denied medical attention. Likewise, the Special Commission was informed
that in January or February 1978 a Red Cross ambulance that was carrying a sick
child, his mother and a volunteer was machine-gunned by Guards from the Fortín
de la Pólvora. Also it was informed that Public Health and the Vélez Páiz
Hospital in Managua have ambulances that have a painted Red Cross Emblem and
that in the barrio OPEN N° 3 government ambulances with the Red Cross emblem
were used to transport soldiers, thus creating suspicion and confusion in the
population with respect to the Red Cross. In Estelí a wounded person that was
being attended to by the Red Cross was killed while on a stretcher. In Diriamba
the National Guard beat up four volunteers and stole the money they were
Deaths immediately after the bombings during the so-called
When the bombings were over, the National Guard carried out a military
operation, which has come to be known as “Operation Mop-up,” designed to
annihilate the last pockets of resistance. According to complaints received by
the Special Commission even before they went to Nicaragua, the National Guard
during this phase carried out a cruel attack summarily executing numerous
non-combatants, for the mere fact that they lived in neighborhoods or small
hamlets where members of the Sandinista Front had fought. Among some of the
places mentioned are Monimbó in Masaya, Subtiava and Fajas William in León, El
Calvario in Estelí, and Colonia Venerio in Chinandega.
As has been mentioned in other parts of this report, the Commission
visited all these places, speaking with the residents of the affected areas and
contacting relatives and neighbors of the people whose deaths have been
denounced. Likewise, it visited different sites where all evidence confirms the
fact that in those places there are shallow mass graves.
All the proof gathered by the Commission has led to the conclusion that
the Nicaraguan National Guard's actions during the phase called “Operation
Mop-up” were marked by complete disregard for human life, that they shot
numerous people, in some cases children, in their own homes or in front of the
same and in the presence of parents and siblings.
There follows an account, by way of example, of some of these complaints.
In Matagalpa, where the insurrection started at the end of August, during
the height of “Operation Mop-up” one or several combatants of the Sandinista
Front, who were fleeing members of the National Guard, entered through the main
door of the Hotel Soza of that city, and immediately went out the back. Shortly
afterwards the soldiers arrived, and the complainant, the only survivor of the
events, gives the following account:
On August 30, at approximately 11:30 in the morning in Matagalpa, some
thirty soldiers shot their way into my house, known as “Hotel Soza,” and
said they belong to the EEBI, and ordered all of us in the house towards the
back, with our hands in the air, in the direction of the principal room in the
house. In the house there was my elderly mother, Tina Arauz de Soza, my
brother-in-law Harold Miranda, the maid Nubia Montegro, and a guest, Alfredo
Lacayo Amador, and the undersigned. As they were coming out they were also being
machine-gunned. I was behind my mother and I jumped to the neighboring house and
I was able to hide in the trash bin, hidden by the body of my mother.
I spent the whole day hidden in the trash bin, that is 24 hours, hiding
behind some rotten beams a few feet from the soldiers who continued shooting to
break down the doors. I could hear them shouting “there were five, where is
the other one?”
And I could see how my mother was butchered after they machine-gunned
her, opening her abdomen with a bayonet. My brother-in-law had his genitals cut
off and put in his mouth.
They took my mother's clothes, my brother-in-law's watch and even the
keys to his car. And from the house they took about 8,000 Córdobas ($1,143)
that my mother had hidden under a mattress. After having looted the whole house
and not finding any guerrillas or weapons, a member of the guard said, “We
screwed them for the fun of it.”
I was able to leave that day helped by some friends who brought some
nurse's clothes so I wouldn't be recognized. A few days later an order of
massive arrest was received by the Commander of Police of San Dionisio, where my
father was, against the whole Soza family.
Before they came to get us, my father took us to another place.
In Masaya the Special Commission received the following testimonies
regarding “Operation Mop-up.”
On September 9, 1978 the Sandinista Front entered the town of Masaya, and
completely took over the city. On September 11 the National Guard came with a
tank to bomb the house. It was rendered completely uninhabitable; in that same
house Mrs. María Sequeira and her 1-1/2 year old son, which she had in her
arms, lost their lives. After bombing the house and killing Mrs. Sequeira, they
immediately went to a shop belonging to Mrs. Sequeira, a bar, drinking all the
On September 11, members of the National Guard dragged Mario and Alcides
López from their house at two in the afternoon, and beat them. They took them
away and the following day they were found about three blocks away, shot to
They took all their clothes and the little money they had. They weren't
armed, they were only in their houses with their wives and their six small
children, protecting themselves from the shooting that was taking place.
At 4:00 p.m. on September 11, 1978, Gloria María went approximately 200
meters from her house to look at some smoke that was rising from the city of
Masaya and stood there with her child and her husband. Her house is located 4
kilometers from Masaya.
I saw that she was shot by a well-equipped soldier who was difficult to
see in the field due to the green color, she was shot in the knee of the right
leg, a little higher, then, while on her back she begs God for mercy for her son
and begs them to take her to her husband—who is running desperately to help
her. The same EEBI murdered, in the “Mop-up” operation ordered by Somoza,
answers her: “I'm going to send you where Pedro Joaquín is” and shoots her
three times in cold blood; in the right breast, in the chest at the sternum and
in the navel. Once dead she was dragged from her property and sent to the
morgue. The National Guard hindered her burial at 3:00 p.m. on September 12,
On September the 12th at approximately 9 in the morning,
Manuel, 43 years of age, accompanied by his three sons, Omar (24), Salvador (14)
and Mauricio (13), left their house to seek shelter. They were carrying white
flags and the women were coming behind them; when they were on their way they
were grabbed by members of the National Guard, among whom there were several
orientals whose speech could not be understood. They shot at them without asking
anything and they all fell (they were carrying a white flag trying to leave
Masaya to a farm due to the fighting; behind the four came the rest of the
family also with a white flag).
Omar and Salvador died immediately. Mauricio fell in a ditch wounded.
Manuel, when he fell, was only wounded in the legs and when the guards
approached, he covered his face with his hands and begged them not to kill him,
but they shot him right then and there, severing his hands and part of his arms.
The rest of the family who was behind saw the whole thing. That day they (the
women) weren't allowed to get the bodies. The next day they did get them and
found more than 300 cartridge shells there. They took them to their house and
they buried them in the garden.
From the previously quoted report from a professional association in León,
we transcribe the following paragraphs:
On September 15 the National Guard announced a “Mop-up” operation in
the city and forbade the citizens, some of whom never left, to open their doors
and leave their houses. It is painful to realize that although there were some
deaths in the previous combats, a greater number of unarmed civilians died in
the malicious bombings, whose just name we will not find in a dictionary, but
even after the bombings, when the National Guard already controlled the city and
the rebel groups had fled, the army unleashed a repression that must end and
which up to now has produced a greater number of deaths than the other two
stages and much property damage which, like the bombings, we consider completely
In the days after the bombings and coinciding with the desperate exodus
of a large part of the population, the National Guard, in its efforts to destroy
the resistance, broke and destroyed closed doors of houses, warehouses and
stores, and also furniture, looking for rebels or documents and compromising
objects. We know several cases of those abuses. But even more painful and
enraging is the fact that a true manhunt was been organized, where there are no
prisoners but only death for young men over 14 for simple suspicion, or rather
fear, that they might be rebels. Horrible massacres have been committed by the
military who show up in different places, indiscriminately shooting the male
population, leaving widows and unprotected orphans. There are places in which
whole blocks have been left without men. Other times, unarmed youths fleeing
from the ferocious persecution head for the countryside where they are victims
of the deadly action of an informer, respectable citizens are captured with
their sons and cruelly tortured. Sometimes when they don't find the right
person, they capture women as hostages to force the men to present themselves.
This persecution must immediately cease because it constitutes a crime against
humanity and is depriving our city of its youth, the necessary manpower for the
reconstruction and progress of the country.
A complaint on the mass execution of 22 people in the Barrio Nuevo de
Guadalupe of León whose bodies were buried in a mass grave in the place called
“La Arrocera,” states the following:
On September 18, 1978, we arrived at Barrio Guadalupe of the city of León
at an alley called “Barrio Nuevo”. When we walked down a long street from
west to east, we noticed that the neighbors would come to their doors and
windows with expressions of surprise and fear, because we think, it was the
first time in nine days that they had seen a vehicle go through that street.
During that time they had been inside, protecting themselves from the shootings
and bombings of the National Guard. We could see in their faces a deep sorrow
and fear, and at the time, we could not imagine the tragedy they had suffered.
There were three people in the vehicle. Our trip was to visit Mr. Roger
González B., an employee of “Prolar”, to obtain information on the status
of the branch office that the company has there.
The house was located in a small alley of about 25 humble dwellings. We
were surprised to see Roger's wife, Josefa, about 24 years of age, in a pitiable
state of insanity; she was delirious, screaming and repeating incessantly the
name of her husband, “Roger...Roger...Why did you go?, I told you they would
kill you...”, etc. A man came up and started to tell us what had happened to
them. Sure enough: “Friends,” the man told us, “they have massacred us.
Josefa is going mad. We have had no water for several days, we don't have food
and the worst thing is that we can't go anywhere.”
“Listen: They killed my son along with Roger.” We asked him to calm
down and to tell as what happened. He calmed down a bit and told us what he
knew: “On Thursday the 14th I was coming from a place called
Chacaraseca. On the road I heard shooting and large explosions throughout the
city, airplanes and helicopters were flying over León. I was able to reach this
house. My youngest daughter and the neighbors told me what had happened and with
the help of other neighbors we were able to make a list of the people who were
machined-gunned with impunity. Just in this alley there's 22 dead, of all
different ages. I know all of them well, they are poor and peaceful people; I'm
sure that none of them has ever taken up weapons against anyone, moreover, most
of them were parents with the responsibility of looking after their children and
That day (September 15) all the people from the neighborhood went out on
the street screaming: “The Guard says that they are going to burn everything
in this neighborhood, everybody out, leave your houses, the bombing is
coming.” Right then and there, several Guard patrols appeared, shooting at the
doors and using the rifle butts against the doors that were closed. “Come out,
you bastards. We have orders to burn all this,” the Guards kept saying,
showing all the hate and arrogance which characterizes them.
All the neighbors came out to the street, mothers with children in their
arms and some old people helped by the young. For a moment we didn't know what
to do, because we were afraid of crossing the railroad tracks, because on the
other side, in the bushes of the empty lots, there was a whole army, with tanks
and tractors that made us panic. Nevertheless, we had no alternative and we
crossed to the other side of the railroad tracks, rather than being hit by a
bomb or the bursts of machine gun fire which the helicopters were hurling
against the civilian population.
Suddenly a group of men shouted “Let's go to La Ceiba,” a small
country property on the other side of the by-pass. We all went in that
direction, approximately 150 of us.”
Suddenly the Guard patrols came out from the bushes and stopped us,
saying: “Let's see, you, the men, give the children to the women and
separate,” pointing with their guns indicating that the men should separate.
They gathered a group of approximately eight youths and told them, “you are
going to teat down barricades,” and they took them away. They formed another
group of around 25 men, young and old, and made them lie on the ground, searched
them and immediately took them towards the grass; they asked them to kneel and
just one guard with all the hate and sadism, emptied his deadly machine gun on
The names and ages of the murdered young men are the following:
Carlos Hernández 20
Gonzalo Hernández 30
Miguel Centeno 32
Julio Páiz Barrera 27
Flavio Páiz Barrera 18
Clemente Paíz Barrera 23
Pedro Vargas Alvarez 29
Luis A. Martínez Alvarez 24
Hilario Martínez Ramírez 50
Julio Lezama Alvarez 30
Salvador Vílchez Poveda 23
Pedro Vílchez Poveda 17
Ernesto Luna Ruiz 27
Gonzalo Luna Ruiz 25
Porfirio Páiz Altamirano 25
Víctor Torres Pineda 19
Pedro Pérez Padilla 21
Luis Vargas Parajón 24
Roger González Bermúndez 25
Jesús Padilla Reyes 19
Manuel Coca Salazar 20
Another denunciation also received in the city of León and which, like
the others, the Commission investigated, is the following:
At around 4 o'clock in the afternoon of Friday the 15th of
September, after the serial bombing which the citizens of León, particularly
the Fajas William sector, had suffered, a National Guard squadron approached,
led by a tank that was shooting at the houses half a block north of the Fajas
William Sector, and behind that tank there were groups of National Guardsmen
knocking on the doors so the people would open them and those who didn't open
their doors had their houses machine-gunned. They went ton like that until they
came to my house, which already had a big hole from a tank shot. When they
knocked on the door, I opened it because I was afraid and because they were
ordering me to open it saying, “Open, you son of a bitch;” once the doors
were opened four soldiers came into my house. All the people in the house
gathered in the living room. Then the soldiers ordered the men and women to
separate, then they ordered everyone out in the street, men and women, but at
the door they stopped the women.
They took the first three young men to a wall on the other side of the
street, with their hands over their heads and they killed them right then and
there. Then they made three other young men leave, among them my 18 year old
son, and when they were coming out the door with their hands over their heads,
the soldiers that were in the street Machine-gunned them about their face and
chests. Efrain was shouting, “don't kill me.” Miraculously, I was able to
save myself and my five year old child whom I had by the hand. Immediately the
guards who were inside the house ordered me and the others to stand next to the
wall, pointing at us with their machine guns and one of the guards told me that
they weren't going to kill me because I resembled his wife, but to tell him
where I had the weapons, and I repeated that I didn't have any weapons in the
house, and all the people there belonged to the same family even the one they
had killed in the door of the house, whose name was Efrain, who was my son.
They then proceeded to search the house and to go through the furniture
and every other object in every corner of the house, not finding any weapons and
then finally the guard left my house.
In Estelí, the Special Commission also went to investigate the following
Professor Paula Ubeda de Morales, about 40 years old and Director
of the Alfonso Cortes School, went out accompanied by a young boy, Omar
Rugama, to buy some medicine for her mother-in-law. They were walking along
the street when a burst of shots from a National Guard sniper, who was on the
tower of the church, wounded them on the legs, they fell and the Guard
immediately went to kill them. The husband was not able for several days to
obtain permission to go and look for her body to bury her. When they were
burying her in her own home the National Guard arrived. They ordered several
people who were there, over their anguished protests, first to kneel next to the
grave they had just dug and then to throw themselves in it. A woman told them,
“But I'm not doing anything. Please have mercy on my little girl.” It was
useless. The first one to throw himself in the hole was Mr. H.L., and then the
others. They fired their machine guns on the four people, killing among them
Fernando Morales, 16, son of the slain Professor they were burying.
Nevertheless, Mr. H.L, was not hit and was able to save himself to tell this
story because the other bodies fell on top of him. He waited until the guards
had left and then went out to look for help and bury the dead.
Deaths after the hostilities had ended
At the end of military operations in the cities most affected, a new
phase began around September 21, in which the National Guard is charged with
carrying out a systematic campaign of persecution and killing young men who are
suspected of having some link with the Sandinista Front, or for the simple fact
that they sympathize with it.
During the visit to Nicaragua, the Special Commission received many
denunciations on the deaths of numerous young men at the hands of the National
Guard. According to the complainants, on several occasions those deaths occurred
when the National Guard shot at groups of young men who ran in fright at the
sign of the approaching soldiers. In other cases, it was alleged that people had
been forcibly dragged from their houses by the National Guard at night during
the curfew, and in some cases executed near their houses, and left on the
street. In other cases, their bodies would be tossed in remote places where it
would take some time to find them. Likewise, the Special Commission heard about
deaths blamed on the National Guard, which according to the claimants, the
perversity of those responsible was shown by the circumstances.
The Commission investigated a good number of these cases, contacting
relatives of the victims, many of them eyewitnesses, receiving the testimony of
doctors who had examined the bodies, and speaking with people whom the
Commission found very credible, such as Bishops, priests, nuns, members of the
Red Cross, etc. Likewise, the Commission visited the places where these deaths
occurred, in many places seeing the numerous bullet holes.
In the city of Jinotepe, the Special Commission received the following
A young pregnant woman was walking with her husband and small child. A
National Guard patrol appeared and arrested the husband. While he was imprisoned
they tore out an eye, they pulled out his nails and tongue, and with a knife
they opened up his stomach and they filled it with mud and then they
machine-gunned him. The doctor that examined the body (it had been abandoned in
the road and later discovered by a relative in the Managua morgue) found that he
had more than 50 bullet holes.
In Diriamba, the Special Commission received the following denunciation:
Manuel Jesús Ribera, was a child of 12, very popular and
well-loved in the neighborhood, called “the mascot”. During the fighting he
helped the Sandinistas, bringing them messages and food but without fighting
with them. This fact later caused the Guard to search for him implacably, even
killing another child whom they mistook for “the mascot.” As vengeance, the
father of the other murdered child looked for him until he found him in the
Diriamba market and denounced him to the National Guard. Soldiers of the
National Guard found him there on Thursday, October 5, hiding inside a box, and
then took him out and machine-gunned him, killing him.
The death of the Ribera child was confirmed to the Special Commission by
Commander Lola of the Jinotepe National Guard who, as an explanation, answered
that he “helped the guerrillas.”
In León, the following testimony was received:
On Saturday, September 30, at approximately 11:30 in the morning, in the
property “Las Delicias”, located in El Chague, a National Guard patrol
appeared in two vehicles, commanded by Sargeant Pablo Aguilera and Jorge Luis,
who violently arrived at the property, frightening the people in the house. Two
young men ran out in panic, thinking that it was bandits disguised as National
Guard, owing to the gross and violent manner in which they arrived. This caused
the officers and the soldiers to shoot at the two young men, Yader Vanegas
Camacho, 18, and Rigoberto Camacho Padilla, 14, who had gone there
looking for the safety of a rural area because any young men that fell in the
hands of the Guard in the city was considered disappeared. As a result of those
shots the young men died; first they had been shot in the shins and then killed
in a nearly orchard. The young men were completely unarmed. The Guard stole the
little money they had and their shoes. They were practically riddled with
bullets since there were bullet holes all over their bodies, especially in their
hands. They were killed while completely defenseless and without having
committed any crime.
In Managua the Commission received this denunciation:
On Saturday, September 30 of this year, at around 10:30 at night, José
Daniel Jarquín García, 18, single, Pedro ..., 27, soldier, and a
neighbor called Manuel Hernández Velásquez, 27, businessman, married
and father of six children, the oldest one being nine and the youngest two
months old, were drinking at home. All of them were from the same neighborhood.
It so happens that when they ran out of the liquor they had, they decided
to get a bottle at the store located almost in front of the house. The three of
them crossed Santo Domingo street, which separates the house from the sidewalk
in front. While they were knocking on the door of the store, two blue jeeps of
the National Guard appeared, which took them to an unknown destination.
The following day, Sunday October 1 of the present year, I went to the
Eighth Police Precinct, which is the police station of that area but they didn't
give me any news either; therefore, I decided to go to the Central de Policía
of Managua where I was told that they weren't there, but that I should look for
them in the hospital and in the morgue because if they had been captured after 8
p.m. they were “out”. At around twelve noon I went to the morgue of El
Retiro and there were José, Pedro, and Manuel; the person in the morgue told me
that, according to the report, the bodies had been found in the Cuesta del Plomo.
The cadavers had been sprayed with bullets. José had a hole in the
temple, and he was almost cut at the waist by machine gun bullets and both arms
were broken. The top part of his head was completely destroyed and Manuel had
his back completely full of bullets.
In Masaya, the Special Commission received this denunciation:
On Monday October 2, at around 5:30 in the afternoon, four people were
traveling in a red Datsun pickup towards the village of Veracruz, located 6
kilometers left of kilometer 14, halfway towards Masaya. The driver, Adán
Martínez García, 31, married, chauffeur, Humberto Rodríguez Martínez,
20, single, accountant in the office of highways in Batahola; Silvia Antonia
Rodríguez Martínez, 17, single, student of the Normal School in Managua;
and William Rodríguez, 13, 6th grade student in the Máximo Jérez
School. Right at the entrance towards Veracruz a lady asked them for a ride to
Concepción (Department of Masaya) to which they agreed. On the way to Concepción
and near Ticuantepe the pickup broke down and when they couldn't fix it they
left it at a neighboring house and decided to return to their house in Veracruz.
It was around 6:30 in the evening. After a short distance they ran into a
National Guard Patrol, coming from Ticuantepe towards Concepción, which stopped
and, despite checking their work identification and listening to their pleas,
arrested them and took them in the direction of La Concha. When they arrived at
an isolated hill they stopped and made everyone get out. They put Humberto Rodríguez
Martínez against a wall and shot him several times and destroyed his face and
one of his arms and also other parts of his body. Afterwards they machine-gunned
him. Then they ordered Adán to throw the body in a ditch. Adán agreed but
asked them not to kill him. At that moment they shot him, seriously wounding
him. Then they shot William, but the bullet just grazed his chin and he
pretended he was dead, rolling to the bottom of the ditch, where they shot at
him again without wounding him. Adán, who was only wounded, tried to get up and
prayed to God in a loud voice. When the guards saw this, they shot him again,
mortally wounding him.
When they tried to carry off the young girl, Silvia Antonia Rodríguez,
she begged to be killed right there but the Guards took her to an unknown
destination. The following day the relatives of the dead youths were told what
had happened by William and they went to get the bodies, which they buried in
the morning of Wednesday October 4. After a long search the relatives of Silvia
Antonia found the body in the El Retiro morgue. The girl had been raped, they
cut her hair, her breasts were cut off and she had her throat slashed; all her
body was bruised and machine-gunned.
The following testimony comes from Estelí:
In the morning of Wednesday October 4, 1978, in the city of Estelí, José
Francisco Rugama Meza, 41 and Alfredo Altamirano Pérez, 25,
disappeared after having been seen by their fellow employees being put into a
light blue jeep of the INSS (National Institute of Social Security), without
license tags, with military passengers. Mr. Altamirano was made to get in
directly in front of the National Guard command post and Francisco Rugama near
the highway, at 7 a.m. The jeep set off at great speed towards an unknown
Their bodies were found on Monday the 9th of October, 20
kilometers outside of Estelí, already in a complete state of decomposition and
partly eaten by animals. There were signs of torture and they had been shot in
the head and throughout the body, a fact confirmed by the Red Cross and the
medical examiner. The bodies were later incinerated. Their belongings (watch,
wedding ring, chain, etc.) and money were stolen.
The Commission also has in its possession numerous other denunciations
and testimonies of deaths attributable to the National Guard after the end of
the hostilities. In quoting only some examples, the Commission has wishes to
point out the magnitude with which this fundamental right to life has been
repeatedly violated in Nicaragua.
The disappearance of peasants
During its on-site observation, the Special Commission was informed of
the fact that 321 peasants, arrested by the National Guard, have disappeared and
are presumably dead. That fact, the Commission believes, constitutes a very
grave violation to the right to life. Moreover, this situation has not been
investigated by the Government or the Nicaraguan judicial system, which hasn't
opened any proceedings despite the public and well-known denunciations which
have been made repeatedly.
1 of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man states:
“Every human being has the right to life, to liberty and to the security
of his person.”
to government figures obtained by the Commission, the National Guard
suffered a total of 52 dead and 156 wounded. With regard to the FSLN
casualties, the Commission does not have the necessary information to give
3 of this Convention states: “In the case of armed conflict not of an
international character occurring in the territory of one of the High
Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as
a minimum, the following provisions:
Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members
of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de
combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all
circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded
on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth, or wealth, or any other
this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and
in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds,
mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
taking of hostages;
outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and
the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without
previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all
the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized
The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.
impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red
Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.
Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by
means of special agreement, all or part of the other provisions of the
application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of
the Parties to the conflict.”
Convention came into force for Nicaragua six months later, on June 27, 1954,
in accordance with its Article 153.