In the Aftermath of Montes Killing, Prison Administration Stays Mute, while Many Nicaraguans Demand Answers.

In the aftermath of the killing of political prisoner Eddy Montes at the Modelo prison, the Interior Ministry (MIGOB, by its Spanish acronym) has retreated into mutism. MIGOB has not released any additional information beyond two press statements issued yesterday afternoon, which described the Montes’ death as the result of his own actions.

According to MIGOB, Montes and others charged against security personnel stationed at the perimeter of the prison, which led to one officer shooting once, in self-defense.

However, prisoners who were there at the time describe a completely different situation, in which a prison guard first threatened the inmates and then shot without cause or warning. Following the initial shooting, prisoners say they were furiously attacked by dozens of guards.

MIGOB has not said one word about the prisoners’ claims. If anything, the entity in charge of Nicaraguan prisons blocked family members from visiting their incarcerated relatives for almost 24-hours. Moreover, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who came to the prison after Montes was shot, released a statement that offered very little information about the status of the remaining political prisoners. Instead, the ICRC succinctly wrote that they “facilitated the evacuation of the wounded, who received medical attention from the medical staff at the penitentiary.”

This afternoon, though, relatives were finally allowed visitation. Several relatives, including the mothers of Nahiroby Olivas and Byron Estrada spoke to journalists camping out at the Modelo. All three women say that the prisoners were beaten.

Jakeline Valdivia, mother of Nahiroby Olivas, says that her son was beaten. “They hit him with steel rods and baseball bats. They struck him on the knee. He’s limping now.” Valdivia also said her son described how guards singled him and other well-known prisoners out. “They were yelling at him ‘we are the cachorros [pups]; the sons of Sandino. You are coup-mongers.” Valdivia then added that even though the prisoners were already subdued, the attack continued, as guards beat and used pepper spray on the inmates.

Valdivia told journalists that her son Olivas watched  Eddy Montes die “practically at his feet” and was very much affected by the death of the man whom he considered a close friend and advisor.

Yesenia Estrada, mother of Byron Estrada, described a similar scenario. “The boys are all beaten up, black and blue, and wounded. The kids are totally destroyed. They were beaten with steel rods, bayonets; they were attacked with AK-47s and shotguns, and all the guys are beaten up,” she said.

According to Estrada, no one has been taken to a hospital, in spite of their injuries.

Byron Estrada, who was a dentistry student at the UNAN-Leon before being expelled and incarcerated last year for his participation in the protests, wrote a description of his injuries on the back of a styrofoam container. He has contusions and excoriation wounds on the right arm, the lower back, and the right knee cap. He also has a hematoma on the right, front part of the head. He described being in pain, but stable, and said he has received pain medication for his injuries.

US Ambassador Kevin Sullivan met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs today. Mr. Sullivan demanded a “full and transparent investigation” of the Montes killing.

Eddy Montes was a United States citizen and a veteran of the US Navy, as reported by Reuters.

Ambassador Sullivan is the highest ranking State Department official to go on the record on the Montes case at this time. In fact, until Mr. Montes’ death, no one in the State Department or elsewhere in the Trump Administration had said anything Mr. Montes, in spite of his American citizenship. His arrest received no coverage by US-based media, which is a stark contrast to the overwhelming attention paid to cases involving other US citizens imprisoned abroad, like Otto Warmbier.

Protesters Picket at Cathedral

As prisoner visits unfolded, protesters gathered at the Managua Cathedral to demand justice for Eddy Montes and the immediate release of all political prisoners. The picket, organized by the Comité pro Liberación de Presos Políticos, unfolded in spite of heavy police presence.

Officers in riot gear surrounded the Cathedral prior to the gathering, to prevent people from entering the grounds.

At this time, there are reports of one protester who was taken by the police at the Cathedral. The young woman, identified as Zayda Hernández, is a student leader. Earlier in the afternoon, Hernández shared a short video of the police deployment around the Cathedral. She wrote “The sandinista police has surrounded the perimeter of the Cathedral of Managua. A simple picket is enough reason for a police deployment. They are posted at every entrance to the temple and they’re questioning anyone who wants to come in.”

There are also reports of heavy police presence in Matagalpa, where Eddy Montes resided. The deployment anticipates public protests, which may arise during Montes’ wake and funeral.

Like in Managua, citizens are picketing and protesting in Matagalpa, to demand an investigation of the Montes case.

Impromptu protests, known as Piquetes Express, have also been documented in other parts of the capital city.

As is customary, the media of the Ortega-Murillo propaganda machine have overwhelmingly ignored today’s events, focusing instead on the 124th anniversary of Sandino’s birth, among other stories.