Student Interview: Madelaine Caracas, co founder of University Coalition for Justice and Democracy

This is the translation of an interview of one of the principal student leaders, published in La Prensa, Sunday June 17, 2018

Madelaine Caracas: “They try to shut up any voice that rebels”

Madelaine Caracas is in Europe denouncing the Ortega massacre. At the inauguration of the National Dialogue she read the names of those murdered to Ortega.

Madelaine Caracas, member of the University Coalition

Since last May 20th she started a series of trips through Europe to denounce the dramatic situation that the country is experiencing, based on the brutal repression of Daniel Ortega against the protestors. She and two other young people, Caracas says, have met with organizations, academics, politicians and diplomats to denounce the Ortega massacre through photos, videos and testimony. In some countries, she reveals, sympathizers of the Nicaraguan caudillo have rebuked her.

In this telephone interview from Berlin, Germany, she vindicates the participation of women in this civic struggle, remembers the moment in which she slammed the names of those murdered in April in the face of Ortega at the beginning of the National Dialogue, and details aspects of her trip that cry out for justice and democracy for Nicaragua on the other side of the Atlantic.

How did your trip to Europe come about?

I am here (in Germany) as part of this informational caravan of solidarity with Nicaragua. We are three women who are here denouncing and providing our testimony about what is happening in the country. The caravan began in Denmark, then Sweden, Belgium, France, right now I am in Germany and other countries are left to visit. Basically this initiative started as the idea of a group of Nicaraguans who have traveled and have contacts with social organizations, and who have worked in these organizations, and that at the same time have contacts with self convoked Nicaraguans in each country that we visit. The expenses and coming here have been covered partly with the solidarity of Nicas outside the country who live here in Europe, as well as organizations that have had a solidarity connection with Nicaragua.

How was it decided who would go and what the mission of the trip would be?

The objective of this is that in the country there polarization of information is great, and it gets transmitted outside the country like that. We know that Ortega and Murillo have most of the control over the communications media, and it is important to counteract the media blockade that they have imposed on the country. Likewise to take what is happening outside the country. A group of Nicaraguans and citizens who have always been in the social demonstrations and who have had experiences with other countries took the first steps to organize this, and later there were the groups of self-convoked Nicaraguans in each country who coordinated the activities. I stay in the homes of Nicaraguans in each country I go to, and there are Nicaraguans who accompany me where I go. Part of this group wanted people from the student movement, they contacted the University Coordinator for Justice and Democracy and they chose me to come on this trip.

Who are the other two women who are traveling with you in the caravan?

Jessica, a young activist in Ciudad Sandino who has a youth organization where she works on community development, and was directly in the protests. She lost a friend, they killed a friend of hers in the protests and she also recounts her testimony. And there is Yerling, who is a teacher in the UCA and the UPOLI.

What were the highest level leaders that you talked to about the crisis in Nicaragua so far?

We have tried to have some type of advocacy on three sectors: on the parlamentary level, the diplomatic level and the level of political organizations: NGOs, human rights, press. In each country we visit the Ministry of Foreign Relations and we have contacts with some groups that make up the parlaments. Likewise when I went to Strasbourg to be present for the resolution of the European Union on Nicaragua, I had contact with some deputies and political advisers of the parties that were promoting the resolution for Nicaragua. Then in Belgium I had more direct meetings with deputies from the political party that promoted the resolution like Ramón Jáuregui; we also met with the European Service for Foreign Action, and after our meeting I feel like we had an impact in some way. In France I met with senators responsible for part of the Americas and Central America. And we have also met with the FIDH, the International Federation for Human Rights, and we have given talks in Universities.

In some transmissions that you did you denounced that operators of Ortega were trying to boycott them…

We saw that boycott in the second country we visited, which was Sweden. We went to two cities there, Stockholm and Lund. In Lund we made a presentation together with Amnesty International. During that presentation two European citizens who had romantic ideas about this government of Ortega launched challenges in Ortega´s favor. And starting there a campaign was begun. That day in the social networks this person began to say that we were there asking for money for weapons and bombs. And that slander began to run through the networks and in some groups on the left, that in reality belong to the currents of (Hugo) Chavez, Evo Morales and others. Starting with that defamation campaign, media like Telesur and RT disseminated complete slander saying that this was a revolution fabricated in the United States, that we were just pawns of the empire and that all of us were financed by the CIA and we wanted to carry out a coup against Ortega.

What do you think about that canned discourse from Chavez followers that involves all protestors with the MRS, CIA and talks about a coup?

It seems to me one of the most cynical ways of trying to discredit the social mobilization in the country, and also it seems to me one of the signs of fear. They cannot hide the fact that this is a demonstration that comes out of the grassroots of the people and that it is massive. It is very easy to attribute to it these discourses of support and intervention of the empire, when we know that Ortega himself had a very good relationship with the United States.

Do you have a date for your return? Are you afraid that something will happen to you at the airport in Managua?

No. Our arrival in the country in some form makes us afraid due to all the threats. And those accusations that we come to ask for money for bombs, weapons, which are absurd accusations, can be the prelude to possible imprisonment, fabricating a crime. So we are looking for our protection here. We had a return date but we had to move it. We need guarantees and security when we return,

The IACHR granted protection measures for your life. Do you feel that your life is in danger?

The precautionary measures of the IACHR dictate that the State should provide me with protection, nevertheless we know that in our condition it is the State that is killing us, therefore I do not have any guarantee. The precautionary measure is important, because it makes the Government of Ortega visible as responsible, but it is not a bullet proof vest. And the situation of the country is out of control. I fear not just for my life but the lives of my parents.

How long has it been that you have not slept in your home?

I left my home on April 18th. Since then I have not returned home.

How would you summarize these two months of your life?

I was not expecting this evolution that the protests would have. No one did. I think that they are events that started from the indignation. They started as a profound sense that things were not right. My life changed completely. It is like complete surrealism. I had never gotten on a plane and all of a sudden I had to come here to Europe to begin this tour. The dialogue for me, like I will always say, is one of the most difficult moments of my life, because emotionally it was the hardest that I have experienced. Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo were there, and the rest of the Government representatives, who were accomplices of all those murders. And that day Ortega arrives with 400 armed policemen. And the fear and trauma of everything experienced before was repeated that day. What I could reclaim is that all those situations have made me understand the phrase that we say in each demonstration, which is: “they took so much away from us that they even took away our fear.”

Aren´t you afraid?

There is fear because I know that my position means something. You run risks, but at this moment in Nicaragua we are all at risk. There are more than 150 murders and the figure goes up and up each day. But likewise I am afraid for my family. Anything can happen to me, but I do not want anything to happen to my family.

But you are 20 years old.

I am 20 years old. I would not have to be questioning whether I am going to live in the future or not, or whether I can dream about a future or not. It is difficult, but it is the same situation that all Nicaraguans are experiencing.

According to the RAE [Official Spsnish definition] a genocide is the systemic extermination or elimination of a human group by motive of race, ethnicity, religion, politics or nationality. In Nicaragua are we suffering a genocide?

I would say that yes. And many of us have categorized it in this way. The citizens and most have been youth. Not necessarily university students, but those that show strong opposition, resistance to Ortega and his repression. I think that it transcends age as well. Because we are being killed for a political posture. For the fact of criticizing, thinking, questioning, demanding rights. This is one of the most concerning things. If you are someone who is critical, if you are someone who does not give in to the indoctrination that Ortega has exercised all these years, you become someone that the State has to eliminate. They try to shut up any voice that rebels against this dictatorship. Ortega has gone beyond the crimes against humanity, and has equaled many of the dictatorships that have been genocidal that have murdered, kidnapped, tortured that have done more despicable crimes against the citizens.

When you left for Europe how many murders had the state repression caused?

There were more or less 77 murders.

Now there are more than 170. Do you have hope that Ortega will leave power?

I do not see any other way out. I do not see another solution to the case of Ortega. I do not see Ortega governing in the next two or three years that are left in his period. Nicaragua is not going to allow more murders. The resistance that Nicaraguans has had has been incredible.

Changing topics, your compatriot Lesther Alemán mentioned for the New York Times that he would like to be president some day. Have you thought about some political post in the future?

I have come to think in the group I am in about how I want the new forms of doing politics to be. From the University Coordinator for Justice and Democracy we have questioned the same machista and caudillista authoritarian ways that have been happening throughout our history. First, it is important that we reconsider the political models that have existed in the country, and the leadership models that have existed in the country. I myself do not believe in deifying myself in any way. I believe that in collective works, I believe in horizontalness. What has moved me are the rights of women. They are spaces where policy is made and politics can continue being done. Yes I would like to see women like my sister Enrieth (Martínez), who I think are very prepared women, women who have that weight, that knowledge that they can take on posts within society, political roles. In my life I have never aspired to be president or anything similar. In my life I have always aspired to be an artist, because I have worked for that since I was 13, to make art. And I think that it is also important that we women in all spaces have a role and a voice, and that we are represented in some form likewise that indigenous and afro-descendent communities [be represented], who have been relegated throughout our history.

This crisis has brought out the issue of caudillism, that seems tatooed in the history of the country, but in the protests there are many female faces like yours, like Enreith Martínez, Irlanda Jerez, Francisca Ramírez, the women of Jinotega…

Yes, of course. It is obvious. It is unquestionable that women are in this fight. Women have always been there. They have always been working on the inside. The difference is how these women are seen and how they put themselves out there and who is given importance. Historically we women have always had an important role but at the time that history is written it is always written with the names of men. It is important to question that. And it is not to fill a quota. It is because women deserve that what they have done be recognized like the men.

What do you think about when you remember that moment in which you read the names of those killed by the repression to Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo?

When I remember that moment it makes me want to cry. I remember a lot that day because in the following days I ran into people who told me “I heard you read that name and I cried.” They are people who had a close relationship with one of the deceased. For me that is very powerful. At that moment I felt that I wanted to cry, that I wanted to fall apart, but I also remembered that I felt a strength that I had never felt before. And that allowed me to continue strong and say the full name of each one of those killed and not make a mistake. To a certain extent I do not recognize that it was me at that moment.


Madelaine Jerusalem Caracas Marín, 20 years old, is in her fourth year of Communications studies at the Central American University (UCA). Originally from Managua, Madelaine is a cofounder of the University Coordinator for Justice and Democracy, and a member of the University Coalition present in the National Dialogue of Nicaragua. Along with her studies she has been drawing and painting since she was 13. She has grown in this field in a self taught way, but recently participated in a workshop with the well known Nicaraguan artist Patricia Belli. She is a relative of the Nicaraguan muralist César Caracas. She thinks that the way out of the crisis over the massacre of 2018 in Nicaragua involves the constitution of a provisional government, early elections and the departure of Daniel Ortega. She confesses that because of the dramatic national situation she has not touched a paint brush since the end of March and recognizes that admitting this brings tears to her eyes. A book that she likes a lot is “A Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, and a song that she enjoys is Nicaragua, Nicaragúita of Carlos Mejia Godoy.


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