From the altar of her dead son, Aura Lila protests in the Nicaraguan elections

Junior was 15 years old when a bullet pierced his chest in a barricade where he was protesting against President Daniel Ortega. More than three years have passed and Aura Lila does not assimilate her absence: this Sunday of elections in Nicaragua, she will put flowers on her son’s altar.

In the gloom of the living room of a modest home in a neighborhood of the rebellious city of Masaya, in southern Nicaragua, Junior’s photos fill an entire wall. On a table, a plaster Virgin and Jesus, a candle and blue and white artificial flowers, the colors of the Nicaraguan flag.

It is the altar that Aura Lila López raised and that, instead of being removed, grows over time. “I’m still crying for him, I’m still yearning for him,” the 49-year-old woman told AFP.

He wears a white T-shirt that bears the photo of his son with a blue cap, gown and white band from his primary school graduation: “Junior Gaitán. El chick”, says the legend, recalling his nickname.

“I do not adapt to not having it, it is very hard to lose a child, it is something that I do not wish on anyone”, says Aura Lila, through tears.

Her son is one of the 328 deaths that, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), left the repression of the protests that broke out in April 2018, demanding the resignation of the president.

Ortega, who is seeking his fourth consecutive errand on Sunday, with his main rivals in prison, accuses the protesters of “terrorism” and of attempting to carry out a Washington-backed coup.

– “Shot in the chest” –

Junior was one of many young people who, during the protests, put up “tranques” (barricades) that semi-paralyzed the country for about four months in 2018. He was carrying a backpack full of mortars when, according to his mother, he was killed by a policeman.

That June 2, 2018, Junior got up early to go to take his position in a “roadblock”, but Aura Lila had him locked up because the police and armed groups were in the Monimbó neighborhood, the most combative of Masaya.

“He was suffocated to go out, he began to cry, his father gave him permission, he went to see him at the barricade and told him not to move from there,” says the woman.

When her son did not return later, Aura Lila began to despair. “If something happens to Junior, I’ll die,” he says he thought, crying, fearing the worst, on the verge of fainting. “I asked the Lord not to hit me so hard,” he continues.

But soon the neighbors brought the news to him. She rode from block to block on a neighbor’s motorcycle who took her to look for him. “When I got to a church there was a gentillal (many people), and he was with his little face covered, with a shot in his chest.”

– “These dead don’t exist” –

At the door of the house there is a basket with bags of toast on a wooden table. With that and selling soft drinks, Aura Lila makes a living. Her husband, Javier, has a bicycle repair station at the entrance. There is also a great photo of Junior, the same one from the shirt.

This is how they support their youngest son, a daughter and three grandchildren. The other two children have already lived apart.

When Junior turned the first year of death, the neighborhood boys dedicated a soccer game to him at mass that they were going to play. They won and the trophy is on the altar.

He liked soccer, put on masks for folkloric festivals in the city, he was a good student and wanted to be a “graffiti painter”, says his mother.

“Until now there has been no justice (…). For Ortega these deaths do not exist, there were no deaths, there were no murders and there are no political prisoners,” said the woman, who says that the mass of the third anniversary of her death son was watched by the police.

But Rosario Murillo, Ortega’s vice president and wife, maintains that the country lives in “harmony” and the elections are a ratification of “peace.” On Friday, in his daily address, he mentioned that word 26 times.

This Sunday, says Aura Lila, she will protest in her own way at home. On November 2, All Souls’ Day, he took the frosted flowers he learned to make to Junior’s grave and, like every 2nd of every month, he gave a snack to the children of the neighborhood.

While lighting a candle, he assures that the altar will lift him until he gives him life: “We are not going to have earthly justice here, but divine justice is the only one in which I have hope.”

mis / mav / lda

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