"They Killed My Whole Family"

Burial of the Pavón family, killed in a fire in the outskirts of Managua. (EFE / Rodrigo Sura)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Maynor Salazar, Managua | 19 June 2018 — The woman touched the child’s little feet. She played with them, caressed them, kissed them. She slowly passed her index finger over the little nose. “My son, my son,” she exclaimed sadly as many times as she could. The baby, barely five months old, was motionless, with his eyes closed, with burns on his body and his head. Matías Pavón Raudez was dead, in a coffin as small as he was.

Cinthia Lopez broke into tears. Again she touched the little feet of “her boy” and caressed them. Then she raised her head and looked around at the other five coffins in the room. They held the bodies of Oscar Pavón, her father; Maritza Muñoz, her mother; Alfredo Pavón, her brother; Ángela Raudez, her sister-in-law, and Daryelis Pavón Raudez, barely two years old. All, killed in a fire in cold blood.

Her eyes filled with anger, guilt, despair and sadness. Cinthia was one of the three survivors who escaped the fire that occurred around six in the morning this Saturday, in the Carlos Marx neighborhood in Managua. “They killed my whole family. It was the police and the Sandinista mobs,” she declared with great pain and anger.

Cinthia Lopez during the wake for her family in Managua’s Carlos Marx neighborhood. JB2/Confidencial

The neighbors who helped Cinthia’s family told Confidencial that very early in the morning a contingent of heavily armed police and paramilitaries, who were mobilizing in several vans, was deployed throughout the neighborhood. Its objective was to remove the barricades that citizens had erected on the road that goes to El Mayoreo market.

The troops, according to the witnesses who observed from their homes, proposed to locate one of their snipers on top of Cinthia’s house, a three-story construction that from the top floor has a perfect view of the road and the adjoining neighborhoods.

“They were looking for a vantage point from which to shoot us all and to prevent us from resisting when they removed the barricades,” said a witness.

Placing a man on the roof would allow him to cover the backs of the officers and paramilitaries while they dismantled the barricades. They surrounded the three-story structure and then banged on the doors. The owners of the house refused to open and this unleashed the fury of the attackers, who ruthlessly threw Molotov cocktails and shot mortars and bullets.

Cinthia’s house was laid out as follows: on the first floor were the mattresses and other materials used in their mattress factory. On the second floor were the bedrooms, and at the top there was a large space where the family engaged in evangelical worship.

Molotov cocktails and mortar bombs caused the entire first floor to catch fire quickly. The fire advanced to the second floor of the house, where nine people were locked in a room, including Cinthia. Downstairs the paramilitaries were shooting at the citizens who came to try to help. The horror movie continued with a chilling script.

The house where the family was burned to death. EFE/Jorge Torres

The story of a survivor

Javier Pavón is sitting on the sidewalk outside the three-story house. He watches his neighbors go by with buckets full of water. They try to smother the last flames of the fire that devastated the house in which he and eight of his relatives lived. His face is sad, his eyes read and he has the look of someone lost. He is approached by some “brothers” of the church. They ask him how he survived the fire.

Javier lived and worked in Oscar’s mattress manufacturing and sales business. “My uncle was very good to me, he always supported me,” he says, covering his face with his shirt. He cries, because he could not save all the people in the house.

“I got up because I heard the shots, we were all on the second floor, my uncle had said he was not going to open up for those who were shooting, and we locked ourselves in, waiting for them to stop attacking us, but then black smoke came into the room and we began to suffocate,” says Javier.

The room filled with more smoke. They were being suffocated, but Oscar said no one would come out. That could be dangerous. Javier ignored him and left by way of the balcony, which was on the same floor.

“I do not know how, but with my hands I broke open the door.” I went through the thick glass, I don’t know how, but when I felt I could breathe, I continued. I do not know where I got the strength, but I opened the door, and pushed it back and when I got out, I felt how the air reached my lungs,” he said.

The first thing Javier thought to do was to throw himself from the balcony onto the street. He was going to do it, when he heard the voices of two of his cousins: Cinthia and Maribel Pavón. Then he went back for them and brought them with him to the safety zone he had reached.

In the midst of despair the three threw themselves from the balcony of the house. There were no paramilitaries nearby, nor were there any officers. It was then that the neighbors came to help those who were still inside.

“At that moment I wanted to have superpowers, to go in and rescue my uncle, the children, but I could not, I could not, only my two cousins managed to get out,” said Javier, in tears.

Everyone took refuge in a nearby house. Cinthia took the opportunity to record a video, and accused the paramilitaries and the National Police directly of the attack. She also pointed to President Ortega and his family.

“They burned my house, the mattress factory and my whole family is dead, the children, my brothers, my mom, they burned my house, they burned it, I got out because I threw myself off the balcony… My parents, they killed them… but I curse Daniel Ortega and all his family and all his descendants, I curse them,” said Cinthia in a publication that soon went viral.

The neighbors opened the doors of the house. With buckets they tried to put out the fire. It was an almost impossible task to extinguish the flames that way. Fortunately the Benemérito Fire Department came and with the support of the residents, they managed to stop the advance of the fire. However, it was already too late for the six people left on the third floor.

During the rescue efforts, the firefighters found the bodies of Alfredo, Oscar, Maritza and Ángela, completely burned. Matias and Daryelis were in the same room, but with apparent vital signs. They were both lowered to the ground, however, only the child had a pulse. He was transferred in a taxi to the German hospital, but on the way he died.

The neighbors say that if the armed groups had not stayed in front of the house firing at those who tried to help the victims, probably none of the people would have died.

“We tried to go out and help people but the police told us, so vulgarly, ’fuck your asses.’ Even when we were removing the last body, a police van drove by and they shot at all of use. We had to run into the house to save our lives,” explained one of the witnesses.

Another citizen said that the police patrols had the plan to take the house and they wanted to execute it early, however, they did not count on the owners of the house refusing to let them in.

“From five o’clock in the morning they passed by in rank after rank, they were in civilian clothes, hooded, and they went into a house that was empty on the corner, and the people who were passing by were told to go back. Then they started to burn the house, they did not move, they let the family stay trapped and burn to death,” another citizen reported.

 Two dead on June 9th

A few minutes after the arson in the Carlos Marx neighborhood, the paramilitaries and officers went to the outskirts of Villa Miguel Gutiérrez and Colonia Nueve de Junio to demolish other barricades that were on that street.

The troops entered this sector firing against the barricades. The citizens did not leave their homes. They defended themselves from within with homemade weapons and mortars. They also recorded with their cell phones the officers and paramilitaries who fired on the houses.

In the confrontation two people, identified by the residents as paramilitaries, fell among the barricades. “What the police did was take their guns and then they left, they left them like dogs in the street, they did not care if they were alive or dead. That’s how they see them, like some kind of shit,” said one of the citizens of Colonia 9 de Junio.

In his pants the villagers found a vaccination card. The man was identified as Francisco Aráuz Pineda, from Matagalpa, 54 years old, who according to official media, was a “historic fighter of the FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front)” and the son of Amanda Pineda, who was a victim of torture by Somoza’s police in the seventies. According to the same informant, Aráuz was helping to clean up when he was killed. This version has not yet been confirmed.

The other citizen was identified as Antonio Fernández. He fell in the area of the traffic lights of Villa Miguel Gutiérrez. The residents said that his body was removed by the paramilitaries aboard a Hilux.

After searching his bags and finding the vaccination card, protesters from the barricades took the lifeless body of Aráuz to the middle of the street. They sprayed him with gasoline, and in an act of revenge, they set him on fire. The act of barbarism was immediately condemned by thousands of citizens

“Why did they burn the body?”

“Because they (the paramilitaries) burned a whole family. Six people. But you know, at least we burned him when he was dead, while they burned that family alive.”

The lies of Edwin Castro

While the bodies of the six people who had died in the fire were taken to where the wake would be held, at the National Dialogue Roundtable the government representatives were alleging that these people were sympathetic to the FSLN and had supposeldy been victims of “vandals of the right.”

“And I wanted to tell you that the deceased family was a recognized Sandinista family in that neighborhood,” said Deputy Edwin Castro. However, the relatives of the Pavón family refuted what the government party legislator said.

Oscar Pavón, the son of the victims, declared that his family has never belonged to any political party, except the Sandinista Front. He said that those who killed his father and mother were the mobs and the National Police. He insisted that he witnessed how these groups set fire to the house and threatened the neighbors who were trying to help the victims.

“It was the JS and the Police that killed my family, they killed my whole family, those damn dogs,” he said.

During the Dialogue Roundtable, the government’s representative read a communiqué issued by the General Directorate of Firefighters of Nicaragua, in which they claimed that residents of the place said that hooded criminals “who have been stalking the area for several weeks, threw Molotov cocktails causing the fire.”

The document said that “when they arrived to control the fire, they could not intervene quickly because the doors of the premises were locked… while the firemen were carrying out their work, they were being besieged and attacked by hooded groups.”

However, this version was refuted by the neighbors, who clarified that those who came to the site were members of the Benemérito Fire Department. “What they say is a lie, no one was attacked here,” explained a neighbor.

Second lieutenant Oscar Robleto, of the Benemérito Fire Department, told the media that they worked together with the neighbors so that the fire did not spread. He affirmed that they were never attacked and always coordinated with the population to put out the flames.

The legal director of the Cenidh (Nicaraguan Human Rights Center), Gonzalo Carrión, blamed the Government for this new massacre. He also said he had no recent comparison of the levels of crime found in the country.

“We are subjected to a state of terror, it is an expression of the terrorist State itself because they are criminal structures that are fully organized from the central power, there is no turning back. This is an execution and it is the responsibility of the Government of Nicaragua,” he said.

Intimidate at the wake

The coffins of the two children are in the center of the church hall. In front of them are the coffins of their grandparents and behind them those of their parents. All are surrounded by friends, family, acquaintances.

Some people can not bear it and are crying. Others just look at Cinthia, who is still playing with little feet of Matthias. The atmosphere is tense. The other relatives do not want videos or photos to be taken. They are afraid that the police and the paramilitaries will look for them to kill them.

“Do not record me, please, do not record me,” says the son of Oscar and Maritza. The journalists are paying attention More people are approaching the church, hoping to give encouragement and strength to the relatives of the victims. Javier is not present, they said he was very affected.

At night a group of paramilitaries fired several shots in the vicinity of the church. This caused panic among those present so they decided to return to their homes. The repressive forces did not pause in their intimidation.

“The police do not want us to continue denouncing what happened, although it is difficult because the videos abound on social networks, they killed these people, they set fire to them, they let them die,” said a neighbor, who had to leave the wake, like the rest of those present.


Editor’s note: This text was initially published in the Confidential newspaper. We reproduce it with the authorization of this Nicaraguan digital newspaper.

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