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April Mothers: “Demanding Justice for My Son Cost Me Exile”

Six years after the murder of their sons, three family members share what it’s like to live with grief without being able to return to Nicaragua

Madres Abril exilio


Redacción Confidencial

31 de mayo 2024


Eleven days before the first anniversary of the murder of teenager Orlando Aguirre Córdoba, his mother, Yadira Cordoba, made the decision to leave Nicaragua. “I couldn’t even leave flowers on his grave,” she laments six years later.

She explains that what pushed her to suddenly leave the country were the latest veiled threats she received through the pastor of the church she attended. “They came to tell him to talk to me because they knew I was out in the streets with the Nicaraguan flag, attending marches and sit-ins, and they asked him to advise me because they didn’t want anything to happen to me,” she recalls.

For her, the only option was exile. “It was the way not to silence myself and continue demanding justice for the murder of my child,” she reflects.

Orlandito, as she affectionately called him, was a 15-year-old teenager murdered on May 30, 2018, during the march dedicated to the Mothers of April in Managua (on Nicaraguan Mother’s Day). Since his murder, the harassment from the Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo regime for her and her family was constant.

“Later I realized that he attended the protests secretly, but that day of the march he insisted we go because he wanted to support the pain of the mothers whose children had been killed,” she recounts.

Yadira Cordoba
Yadira Cordoba with one of her children remembering Orlandito. Photo: Confidencial

Since she was tired from work that day, after washing almost 12 dozen pieces of clothes, Yadira fell asleep and, with half-closed eyes, said goodbye to her son. “I never imagined that on that day I would also become a member of the Mothers of April,” she affirms.

The teenager was shot in the chest in front of the then Dennis Martínez National Baseball Stadium. “According to witness accounts, the shot was fired by a sniper. The young man was transported by another protester on a motorcycle to the Fernando Velez Paiz Hospital, where he died two hours later,” details the site Museum of Memory Against Impunity of the Mothers of April.

Grief in Exile, Suffering in Another Country

Yadira now lives in the United States, where she arrived two years ago. Before that, she was in Costa Rica. “It’s hard to think that I can’t go back, not even to put flowers on his grave,” she says while crying.

Currently, she works in the laundry of a nursing home. “It’s been tough because of the language, but little by little I now make myself understood with the residents and my coworkers,” she explains.

The 19 children who were killed by the Ortega dictatorship.

However, she admits that she has experienced discrimination in both countries (Costa Rica and the USA). But she finds comfort in being accompanied in exile by two of her children.

In addition to killing her son, the dictatorship had robbed her of peace. “They pursued me; first, I moved houses in Nicaragua, but they didn’t rest until they found me (…) and that’s why, to avoid being silenced, I had to leave the country,” she says.

Yadira confesses that she thought her exile would be shorter, but now she is convinced that she won’t be able to return soon. “As long as those murderers remain in power, I won’t be able to set foot in Nicaragua,” she declares.

The Mourning on Mother’s Day in Nicaragua

Relatives of the victims killed in the context of the 2018 protests, grouped in the Asociación Madres de Abril, continue to reiterate their demand for “justice without impunity” for the 355 people who died, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH), due to the repression of the Ortega-Murillo regime.

Six years later, no one has managed to achieve justice, and on the contrary, the dictatorship protected the perpetrators of the massacre by not opening investigations and instead persecuting the mothers who protested daily.

In an attempt to erase the memory of the murdered, in May 2022, the regime declared May 30th, Nicaraguan Mother’s Day, a national holiday. However, the Mother’s Association insists that it is a “National Day of Mourning” for the massacre ordered by the regime six years ago.

A banner with the names of the murdered, carried in the Mother’s Day march in 2018. File photo: Confidencial

“I Decided Not to Return to Nicaragua Anymore”

Sara Lopez received a call on May 30, 2018, that would change her life. She was in Heredia, Costa Rica, when she was informed that her son, Cruz Alberto Obregon Lopez, had just been murdered in the march supporting the Mothers of April in Esteli.

“They cut short all his dreams; they killed him mercilessly,” she states.

She details that her son had even sympathized with the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), but everything changed when he saw the repression deployed since April 2018, and he was also deeply affected by the murder of his friend and classmate, Orlando Francisco Perez.


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Sara Lopez at an activity of the Mothers of April. Photo: Courtesy

Sara worked in Costa Rica, so she was constantly traveling back and forth between the neighboring countries. In January 2018, she was in Nicaragua for a few days. “January 9 was the last day I saw my son when he took me to the bus station at one in the morning; that’s where we said goodbye,” she recalls.

She never imagined that she would return a few months later to bury him. In August 2018, she went back to Costa Rica and only returned for a few days for the first anniversary of her son’s murder. “But the harassment was always significant, and my family feared that I would be imprisoned for protesting and denouncing the crime, so I decided not to return anymore,” she explains.

The Sadness of Leaving Family Behind

Sara describes “Crucito,” as she affectionately called him, as an intelligent and hardworking young man with a bright future, as he was studying two careers: Civil Engineering and Renewable Energy Engineering.

“I always told him to come with me to Costa Rica, but he would reply that maybe he would go to study for a while because his dream was to serve his country,” said his mother.

Photo: Courtesy

She says it makes her very sad to have left her mother, sisters, and other relatives. “During my exile, my grandmother died, who became saddened after my son’s murder; she suffered a lot from the harassment my family experienced,” she expresses.

Currently, Sara lives in the United States. She works in a supermarket chain and is looking for English courses to be able to “defend herself better.” But she says that in her dreams, she constantly sees herself “at the cemetery leaving flowers on my son’s grave.”

Leaving Nicaragua Due to Jail Threats

Just over three months ago, Cornelio Rivera decided to leave Nicaragua, along with Reynaldo, his eldest son. “I’m just getting used to living in Costa Rica; it was a tough decision because I left my elderly mother behind,” he insists.

For him and his entire family, life changed drastically since 2018. On the night of June 22, 2018, his son, Wendell Rivera Narváez, 17, was shot by police in the Santa Elena neighborhood of Managua, near the National Agrarian University (UNA), when he was returning from playing soccer. He died a day later.

Cornelio Rivera with his late wife, Josefa Narvaez, showing a photo of Wendell Rivera, murdered on May 30, 2018. Photo: Museo de la Memoria AMA y No Olvida de las Madres de Abril

Since then, they haven’t stopped denouncing that crime, and he believes that it “even cost his wife’s life,” Josefa Narvaez, who died of cancer on February 23, 2022, after being denied medical attention.

It also meant that his son Reynaldo was detained three times by the police and intercepted in his neighborhood in Managua more than six times for questioning. The last time was on January 26, 2024. “They detained him for 48 hours, and when they released him, they warned him that next time they would hold him for longer,” Cornelio emphasizes.

“It’s Hard to Find Work” in Exile

After his wife’s death, Cornelio joined the Mothers of April and says that denouncing is “the only way they have to seek justice.” But for his and his son’s safety, they prefer to do so from exile.

“The situation we face as many Nicaraguan families forced to leave our homeland is harsh, finding ourselves far from our families, without financial resources, and arriving in places with a high cost of living,” he reflects.

Currently, Cornelio and his son have only found temporary jobs unloading merchandise containers. “It’s heavy work and nothing permanent,” he laments.

In Nicaragua, he worked in a warehouse and knows how to operate forklifts. “Here (in Costa Rica), I’ve had the opportunity to do it on two occasions, and it pays better than carrying boxes,” he admits. But for now, he doesn’t have a work permit.

Cornelio acknowledges that when his wife was alive, regime envoys came on three occasions to offer them “generous benefits” in exchange for stopping the denunciation of their son’s murder.

“They knew our difficulties and that we lived renting because we don’t have our own house. They offered us housing, even jobs, but we never accepted because that would be like selling our son’s blood, and all we want is justice,” he assures.

This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.


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Redacción Confidencial

Redacción Confidencial

Confidencial es un diario digital nicaragüense, de formato multimedia, fundado por Carlos F. Chamorro en junio de 1996. Inició como un semanario impreso y hoy es un medio de referencia regional con información, análisis, entrevistas, perfiles, reportajes e investigaciones sobre Nicaragua, informando desde el exilio por la persecución política de la dictadura de Daniel Ortega y Rosario Murillo.