Confusion, disbelief, a feeling of emptiness. These were my first reactions. It was Sunday night when I received the news from Guatemala. The next day his death was confirmed by family and close friends. Bismarck Badilla López was found hanged in one of the rooms of the house he rented in the municipality of Santa Teresa, where he served as a doctor fulfilling his social service. He was 25 years old.
“Bismarck was under a lot of pressure from the government, they threatened him,” a close relative tells me; for security reasons, I will allow him to remain anonymous.
“In these last weeks of repression I saw so many injustices inside the health center and had to remain silent for weeks, until I came to a safe place where I could scream everything that was happening,” he says.
Bismarck was originally from Estelí, a city three and a half hours from the place where he performed his social service.
“He witnessed how the boys [the students] were allowed to die because the government did not allow them to be attended to just because they thought differently: the police, the doctors and the Sandinista youth were behind causing the greatest possible harm to the wounded,” explains the relative.
Was it suicide or murder? We will probably never know. Some close friends said that he was killed and that peretrators tried to hide it by faking a suicide. It would not be the first. Since April 18 when the country erupted in protests against President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo, his wife, more than 80 people have been killed, most of them young and civilians.
Allegations of torture, assassinations and disappearances have been documented by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, but the Ortega government remains deaf to the popular clamor and clings to power like its ideological allies in Caracas and Havana.
Bismarck’s close friends say he died because he helped “those he shouldn’t help,” that is, the protesters. Other people claim that he was present at a demonstration. How could such a generous heart deny help to those who needed it? It was serve or die. He chose the first.
I can not believe that Bismarck, El Gordo, as we affectionately called him, committed suicide. I met him in 2015 in Guatemala. At that time I had not exchanged the habits of a Marist brother for career in journalism and he was an aspirant in the community of brothers in Chinautla, Zone 6, in the Guatemalan capital.
Bismarck was a cheerful boy, very tall (over six feet), very intelligent and sensitive. We studied theology it Landívar University and, like all young people, we believed that we could change the world and make it more humane and fraternal.
I remember the endless conversations about politics, about the difficult situation of democracy in our countries. At that time, we were part of the community of brothers from Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Spain, Nicaragua and Cuba.
Both for Bismarck and for me the support that the populist movements had among the most underprivileged social strata in Guatemala was a surprise. In a country so marked by inequality, the messianic discourse — in those years backed by Chavez petrodollars — triumphed.
Bismarck was always a boy critical of the Ortega government. He was not deceived by the Christian veneer of a disguised dictatorship that sought to permeate all the institutions of the nation to turn them into an arm of Sandinismo. That hodgepodge of Party-Nation-State, so typical of the totalitarianisms inspired by Cuba’s Plaza of the Revolution, was repulsive to him.
Like every young person he liked to enjoy life. If anything characterized him is was his loud laughter, which could be felt throughout the house. “You are a rogue,” he would tell me when we joked, taking selfies while we prayed the rosary in the hall or when we ate the olives that the good brother Jesús Balmaseda bought for us in secret.
He was also a person very sensitive to the pain of others. I remember how he was moved — to tears — on a mission we did with the Mactzules indigenous communities in the Guatemalan Quiché. In the midst of shocking poverty I had never seen him so happy. He found his raison d’être in the service of his neighbor, especially the most neglected children.
The Gospel says that if the seed does not fall to the ground and dies, it will not bear fruit, that to live fully, you must first pass through the cross and die. Bismarck knew how to die, as do dozens of his compatriots, in search of a better country, democratic, free of tyranny and oligarchies of any kind.
The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians, said the ancient fathers of the Church. Today perhaps we can say that the blood of the heroes who give their lives in the streets of Managua and other Nicaraguan cities is the seed of freedom.
Unlike me, who took the path of exile, my brother returned to his homeland to work for his people. He could have stayed in Guatemala, where a doctor has a better salary and living conditions, or emigrated to the United States, but he did not want it that way. He went to serve and died with his boots on.
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