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Torture as State Policy in Nicaragua: The Moral Decay of the FSLN

The application of torture and extreme cruelty as a systematic arm of repression is the final phase of the FSLN’s moral decomposition

Carlos F. Chamorro

3 de diciembre 2019


In the last few weeks, the Ortega-Murillo regime has escalated their systematic practice of torture and extreme cruelty, in an attempt to subdue the citizens who are peacefully exercising or demanding of the State their Constitutional rights.

First, in Masaya, the regime imposed a brutal police blockade against a group of ten mothers of political prisoners who had declared a hunger strike in the San Miguel Church, demanding freedom for their children. The Police carried out orders to cut off electricity and water to the Church and criminalized the solidarity of citizens who attempted to come to their aid. They also denied Father Edwin Roman, the parish priest, the right to receive medication needed for his diabetes.

For nine days, those on the hunger strike, together with Father Roman and a group accompanying them, were subjected to a cruel torture that concluded only when the severe deterioration in Father Roman’s health led the mothers to request urgent medical attention for all of them.

Later, in the city of Leon, the police carried out an assault on the Reyes-Alonso family, historic opponents of the regime, with their origins in the Liberal Party. Their house was violently ransacked by the Police without a legal warrant. Then, after having been repeatedly beaten, assaulted and robbed, three members of this family were subjected to a cruel and humiliating treatment by Leon’s Police Chief Fidel Dominguez, who filmed them handcuffed and under threat, while he dictated a confession for them to recite.

Nicaragua and the international community have witnessed these videos, showing how Commissioner Dominguez used torture to obtain from the helpless detainees a promise to  “never again mess with” the FSLN militants; and how he forced them, with a club poised above their heads, to repeat the Orwellian slogan of Vice President Rosario Murillo: “Don’t play with the peace.”

In any country with minimal democratic standards – or even an authoritarian regime that controls its own repressive abuses – Dominguez and his police troops would already have been stripped of their responsibilities and be under investigation.

Nevertheless, under the personalized regime of Ortega and Murillo, in which he holds the title of Supreme Chief of Police and she is his operational arm, Commissioner Dominguez continues undisturbed in his post, while the crimes of the police and the paramilitary continue unpunished, because they form part of a State policy in order to govern.

It’s true that worse crimes have been committed previously, such as the extrajudicial executions, sexual crimes against dozens of youth of both genders, and the tortures that hundreds of political prisoners suffered for months in punishment cells in the jails.

But up until now, a confession produced under torture had never been seen, much less one that has been filmed and broadcast by the Police themselves in an act of unprecedented arrogance.

We stand before the collapse of a police institution that’s being exhibited to the public view as an instrument of torture at the service of a political party. At the same time, torture as a State policy represents the final phase of the moral decomposition of what was once the revolutionary Sandinista Front party.

Isolated in the bubble of their El Carmen bunker, surely Ortega and Murillo haven’t noticed the failure of their irrational repressive strategy, before the moral fortitude of the political prisoners, the mothers on hunger strike, and the Blue and White resistance.  

However, the torture is generating ever deeper cracks among the ranks of the National Police themselves, and among the public employees in the Sandinista Front, because cruelty and inhumane treatment end up morally and politically indefensible.

Can you possibly justify in the name of the leftist banners, or of the nostalgia for the social justice of the Sandinista Revolution, the existence of a band of torturers and death squads in order to impose a fascist totalitarianism?

That’s the dilemma which today – in this terminal stage of the dictatorship – confronts public employees, both civilian and military, and the FSLN party members and supporters.  Either they sink while tied to the mast of the Ortega-Murillo family that can’t govern without torture; or they distance themselves from the torture and crimes against humanity, in order to end the repression and clear the way for a political reform that will allow us to reach a national solution via the electoral route.

On the opposite side, the new majority from the Blue and White movement also confronts a monumental challenge.  While the country sinks under this dysfunctional government, it’s urgent that they fill the power vacuum and demonstrate that their leadership is prepared to offer a lasting national political solution, by being capable of governing for all.


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Carlos F. Chamorro

Carlos F. Chamorro

Periodista nicaragüense, exiliado en Costa Rica. Fundador y director de Confidencial y Esta Semana. Miembro del Consejo Rector de la Fundación Gabo. Ha sido Knight Fellow en la Universidad de Stanford (1997-1998) y profesor visitante en la Maestría de Periodismo de la Universidad de Berkeley, California (1998-1999). En mayo 2009, obtuvo el Premio a la Libertad de Expresión en Iberoamérica, de Casa América Cataluña (España). En octubre de 2010 recibió el Premio Maria Moors Cabot de la Escuela de Periodismo de la Universidad de Columbia en Nueva York. En 2021 obtuvo el Premio Ortega y Gasset por su trayectoria periodística.