This in an interview of Fr. Edwin Román, the pastor of the San Miguel Church in Masaya. The interview focuses on the government´s recently announced policy of reconciliation (see previous post). Sandino´s mother was Fr. Román´s great grandmother, as his mother was the daughter of a half sister of Sandino. Fr. Román became known for accompanying human rights workers to protect the civilian population of Monimbó when government supported paramilitaries , led by Police Commissioner Avellán, attacked the barricades using military weaponry.
Fr Edwin Román questions the “reconciliation” of the FSLN
The priest who suffered the state attack along with the people of Masaya
By Cinthya Tórrez García published in La Prensa, Monday November 12, 2018
In the last seven months Father Edwin Román has experienced the repression of the dictatorship and has a very clear concept, when asked, about the policy of reconciliation that the government in power is attempting to promote.
Román, who suffered the state attack along with the people of Masaya, does not believe in the executioners. For him the proposal is “questionable” as long as the repression continues.
Father, after nearly four months since the paramilitary attack against the people of Masaya, how is life in the city?
The situation is always very tense. I cannot tell you that it is improving. Generally there is little commerce in the morning. The streets are not as busy as they always were, I understand that even the taxi drivers themselves complain because they say they are only ones out, driving around, and there are no passengers, they see the presence of many police patrols, so the people do not go out…. The environment is not normal here in Masaya.
The regime has mentioned a policy of reconciliation. What does true reconciliation imply?
Being reconciled means being restored, for example, restoring a friendship, being in harmony in a home, a country.
Being restored in order to be reconciled with the other, you have to first be reconciled with yourself. Because if I am going to be reconciled with the other, I have to demonstrate my reconciliation with myself. The fact of having pardoned myself, my bad actions, as a believer in that constant search for God to be able to understand what does the word reconcile mean. They are doing this in a political way, practically with the four letters (of the regime, FSLN). They are talking about reconciliation from the party point of view.
The first ones that they have to reconcile with are the people of Nicaragua, because they have been the perpetrators, and Nicaragua has been the victim; I am not talking about since April, but all of these years, we have been victims of violations of human rights, of many unpunished crimes (remember the case of Elea Valle).
But it seems to me that in this country, those who in their own way are talking today about a reconciliation law, should first practice it themselves. That it be visible, because the people of Nicaragua have been their victims. They have been the offenders. What Nicaragua has experienced in this moment is a reaction. This uprising has been a reaction, if we had truly been in that peace, in that solidarity, in that catchphrase that they have talked about, Christianity, then were would have been no need for any uprising.
Analysts have said that an initiative for a policy of reconciliation could seek an amnesty for the regime or greater control through the Orteguista Police. How do you see it?
This is going to continue the repression in a way. Because Nicaragua is not stupid. They are not going to string us along.
This is going to increase the police repression more, the control over families, the brain washing in the schools, even for you yourselves, as the communications media, independent, those who are critical, they are going to try to muzzle you. This is a type of reconciliation on their terms.
What is it exactly that the regime is looking for by trying to talk about reconciliation?
It has its best moments in the dialogue. That was a golden ladder to keep from getting to this extreme, why are they now talking about a law of reconciliation. I see it as a way of shirking their crimes before the entire world. Wanting to provide a different picture to the Nicaraguan people, we who have had the flaw of historic memory. We have forgotten about the crimes, and things continue happening. They are trying to evade justice. Daily we see people who are kidnapped, there is repression, civic demonstrations are prohibited, the amount of political prisoners that exist.
Political prisoners (accused) of terrorism.
Do you believe that the population of Masaya accepts this supposed reconciliation (taking into account the repression that it experienced)?
There is no protest, no demonstration in the streets due to the repression. The people comment, complain, as a priest I am aware of their complaints, their problems, but they are muzzled, they cannot even express themselves publicly because they will be arrested, but that is not fear, it is prudence (…). That supposed law (policy) is not credible, a government like that is no longer believed, that has murdered its people. Masaya always cries over the blood of its dead, and there is a nostalgia in these last two months of the year. November 2nd itself was very hard. Many people came to the mass on November 2nd for their deceased, and you could see how hard it was for so many mothers who were crying. There was like a dialogue of silence between them and myself, I understanding their cry, and they receiving consolation (…). Divine justice will happen, sooner or later (…), the justice of law also we hope will be fulfilled.
What conditions should be established for a true reconciliation?
Dialogue cannot be discarded. The bishops are always open to dialogue, but also let us look at the other party, civil society, and I am very much in agreement, for a dialogue to exist there has to be the liberation of the political prisoners, because we cannot be dialoguing if we have people without any blame who are being sentenced for years. A dialogue and also the population continues being repressed.
Part of the reconciliation that they want to promote, well let it be shown by freeing the political prisoners, that they quit repressing the people every day, that they quit harassing families, that they be very crystal clear. The openness to move up elections, as the people themselves are asking for.
Do you believe that they are willing to do this or it that a utopia?
That is the demand, and I would not be able to respond to you about what is in their heads. That is the clamor, and if they were honest, if it was an honest government, I think that we would be much better in Nicaragua, from so much selfishness, so much personal and party interest.
How do they talk about religiosity and spirituality (as a focus of the policy), when they are maintaining a campaign against the Church and especially against Mons. Silvio Báez? Is it double talk?
Yes, because Mons. Báez has been a prophet (…), prophets did not just exist previously, but rather Christ continues speaking through his Word. And what has been said is a reality, as St. Paul has said and Mons. Báez has repeated, the Word of God is not chained, the Word of God is a double edged sword, because many times is goes to the one who is preaching it and the one who hears it, and it is double speak what has been done because they talk to you about Christianity, peace, love…
What is the Government looking for with this double speak?
Look, we who in this country are Catholics or Christians, be that of the Catholic Church or another Christian Church, and we who are very conscious of our faith, we are conscious of the faith and the Word of God, but what the Government does is manipulate the Word of God, manipulate popular activity. In these days, I imagine, they are going to continue making these supposed altars for the Virgin, that logically, the mother of heaven will be unhappy with what they are doing to poor Nicaragua. This is double speak: manipulate religious symbols, and this lady (Rosario Murillo) who talks also, even seems to prophesize, a preacher, but one preaches with the word and the testimony of your life. You cannot be talking about God and attacking the Church that Christ founded.
In the policy of reconciliation they include religious denominations, but not specifically the Catholic Church. Have you been consulted?
I don´t know if they would have dialogued with someone in the Curia. They would have to go to the Archbishop´s office.
But the fact that they do not mention directly the Catholic Church in the official reconciliation project…
I do not know, it is a questionable law. They have something there, I do not know, implementing in a questionable way. Really the Church has not fought with them.
When you say questionable, what are you referring to?
The way that they are going to implement it. Because they are talking about reconciliation, but the practice of reconciliation is not being followed. They are talking about faith, love, but the Catholic Church is being attacked, and by attacking the Church it is not just one bishop, but all Catholics.
Father, the Orteguista Police, who have been repressive, will be responsible for “community” work. What appreciation do you have of this?
A lot of suspicious things are seen, in other words, there is no guarantee. The executioners, how are they going to be (doing) this now? If they have been the executioners of their people, the people do not forget, and how is their trust going to be felt(…)? How are these people going to be believed who are coming to organize a neighborhood, if they are the executioners of the people, they are the oppressors? What trust is there? None. It is a mistake. I think that this is what they are accomplishing, is that the people, first of all, repressing more, and secondly, the people are a volcano, you do not know at what moment they might explode (…)
Imagine, for example, the General Commissioner Ramón Avellán, one of the faces of the repression. Do you see him really reconciling with the victims, including yourself who was one of the victims of his attacks?
Since it was a public sin, let him say it publicly. That he ask forgiveness of each one of his victims, but also that that pardon lead him to make reparations, and the reparation is justice. That they pay for their crimes. Because it is very easy to say “I ask forgiveness”, but that forgiveness has to also lead to paying for my crime. I think that he has committed it, there have been some public sins, all of Nicaragua knows who the intellectual authors are of so many crimes, and some who know the police who killed them, some were able to discover them, and that they say publicly, that they ask forgiveness publicly, and at the same time face justice, because it is not something from the lips, but also that it be seen that justice is being applied, and this is not hate, this is something natural, that reparations be made. And God is love and is open to forgiveness. No matter how criminal a person may be if he is repentant, he wants to be restored, God receives him.
Do you see Commissioner Avellán asking for pardon in public?
I do not know. No, I do not expect it. I pray for those who have murdered, have mistreated the people in Nicaragua. I pray for conversion, for peace in Nicaragua. I do not expect that they ask me to forgive them.
And the mothers, do you really see him asking forgiveness, taking a step toward that reconciliation?
Everything is possible. Let each person take responsibility for their crimes, and be tried so that they might have peace in their conscience.