Who killed Sixto Henry Vera, the U.S. citizen who was killed Saturday morning in Managua amid ongoing political violence in Nicaragua?
Vera, a 48-year-old man with dual citizenship in the United States and Ecuador but who had lived in Nicaragua for several years, was found stripped naked with bullet wounds to his head and body at approximately 3:30 a.m on Saturday. The killers also set his vehicle on fire and left his body in the middle of the street.
According to a report by UPI, Nicaragua’s National Police blames Vera’s death on “delinquent groups.”
“Delinquent groups with masks, firearms, mortars and molotov cocktails who operate out of the Polytechnic University of Nicaragua sector murdered Henry Vera, caused serious injuries to Marcos Pomares Varela and burned two vehicles,” a police spokesman said in a statement.
But mistrust over the police is strong in Nicaragua.
Some of those close to Vera told UPI they believe it’s the police who are responsible for Vera’s death.
“We’re in a situation here where you can’t trust the police. Plain and simple,” said Agner Aleman, a friend of Vera’s who was at the party earlier that night.
Aleman suspects police who didn’t like Vera’s online posts insinuating illegal police activity were involved. “They don’t care who you are or where you’re from. They want to show their power, their authority.”
Vera, on Friday night, was celebrating his birthday with friends at a bar he owned, the Ranchito Sport Bar.
The UPI reports, according to friends and family who were at Vera’s bar Friday night, a police officer friend of his came by to look at photos and video recordings Vera posted to a WhatsApp group used by neighbors in a gated community as a type of neighborhood watch network. The footage included Nissan Hilux trucks — a common police vehicle in Nicaragua — without license plates driving around and possibly breaking into houses in the neighborhood.
After the police officer friend left, Vera got a phone call about that friend getting into an accident. Vera went to his aid with another friend at the party, Marcos Pomares Varela, and as they were driving down Carretera Masaya, one of Managua’s main avenues, they were ambushed. A chase ensued, Vera crashed his vehicle and he and Varela were shot.
“He survived by playing dead,” Aleman said. “Henry is the type of person who would fight back no matter what. He wouldn’t be able to survive something like that.”
A bystander video posted online shows Vera’s last moments as he lays on the street, naked, face-down, covered in blood and seemingly shaking his head as his vehicle is engulfed in flames in the background.
In a statement, the U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua expressed its condolences for Vera’s family.
Nicaragua, until last month, has been considered one of the safest countries in Central America. However, after the peaceful protest rising of April 18, violence has escalated.
The protests quickly turned deadly, with police blamed for violence.
In the middle of May, almost to the month of the day the protests began, there was hope. The hope of a peaceful solution to the crisis in the country.
The Catholic Church took on the challenge of a national dialogue between the protesters and the government. The Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua organized the talks table, with the first of dialogue, assisted by President Daniel Ortega and his wife and vice-president, Rosario Murillo, taking place on May 13.
The end of the third day of talks, Ortega represented by a government delegation, the Episcopal Conference declared an impasse and suspended the talks when the sides could not agree on the main points of new elections and constitutional reforms.
The next time Ortega was seen in public was on May 30, Mother’s Day in Nicaragua, assuring “we are all here to stay” despite the calls for him to go. That day was also the single most violent day of the clashes, 16 people dead in various parts of the country.
So far, more than 110 people have been killed, many of whom were university students, and thousands injured since the April 18 protests began.