It was a routine Monday afternoon on December 21, 1981. Roberto Vidal, an 18-year-old Indian mine worker, his two brothers, and 57 other fellow mine workers from Indian villages in Nicaragua were anxious to receive their well-earned pay. With Christmas just four days away, they hurried eagerly along the Rio Coco, a snakelike river separating Honduras and Nicaragua. Upon arriving for their pay, they were surprised to discover their money was not in the mining town as usual, but it would be waiting for them in Waspan, a village downstream. They thought it strange, but didn’t protest since Waspan was the perfect town for Christmas shopping for their families, who were waiting for them in their home villages.

Vidal recalls that as they anxiously navigated their dugout canoes on a path of menacing rocks and rapids, they were confronted by approximately 200 uniformed, armed Nicaraguan soldiers. They were quickly ordered into a large school that was being used as a jail. All 60 of the miners were kept under guard for two days. The tensions mounted as the miners began to suspect serious danger. Their only hope was to attempt an escape. Two days later, seven miners from the village of Asang were taken by guards some distance from the detention area.

After a short, silent interval, the soldiers returned, this time selecting Vidal, his two brothers, and another youth. As they were marched to the location of the first group of seven miners, they noted with concern that the Indians were lined up at the edge of a freshly dug hole, obviously a site for a human grave. Roberto and his brothers watched as a soldier triggered his machine gun, sending all seven to an instant death in the muddy grave. Vidal was silently ushered back to await what ...

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