Max Jerez: The Jail Conditions Were Merciless
The student leader and released political prisoner explains that he learned a month later about his mother’s death.
HAVANA TIMES – Two days after been released from prison and banished from his homeland, student leader Max Jerez recalls the horrors that he experienced while locked up in one of the prisons of the Ortega Murillo dictatorship. He claims that during a year and seven months he lived “in conditions that offend the essence of humanity” and regrets that he was denied even “the right to know” that his mother had died.
In those dark hours of his life, “the most difficult thing was the loss” of his mother, Heidi Meza, who died on September 17, 2021. A fact that Jerez learned about a month later. That “was the most difficult moment, because I was also locked up in a punishment cell, isolated, and really in very difficult conditions, particularly at that moment of my life,” relates the student leader.
Now, in freedom and some 3,500 miles away from Nicaragua, Jerez affirms that “the entire sacrifice was worth it. Everything was worth it because it is for the well-being and the future of the Nicaraguan people, for the freedom of the Nicaraguan people, whose struggle we will resume very soon.”
He assures, however, that “no one deserves to go through” the horrors of the dictatorship. He told Confidencial that this situation can only conclude, “when Nicaraguans put an end to the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, when Nicaragua is really free, and that moment will come very soon.”
You were 583 days in prison, how are you? How do you feel right now?
What can I say! Many mixed feelings because we have been released, but, at the same time, an arbitrary and absurd condition have been applied to us, stripping us of our nationality as Nicaraguans. I believe, however, that although the dictatorship has said that this is a condition that we have lost in perpetuity, I hold the firm hope that there will not be an eternal dictatorship in Nicaragua. That soon we Nicaraguans will have a free country, in justice and democracy.
With that in mind, we cling to the fact that soon each and every one of us will return to our homeland, that we will be able to enter our homeland, the country where we were born. I am convinced that we will regain our civil rights, our political rights, our fundamental freedoms: freedom of expression, freedom to dissent, freedom to express our opinion in our country, and the fundamental right to be in our own homeland. We carry our homeland in our hearts and no arbitrary and illegal dictatorship will take away from us the right to feel Nicaraguans and to be Nicaraguans. We are also committed to the freedom of the people of Nicaragua.
What did they tell you on February 9th, when they took you out of the prisons? Did you know or did you have any expectation that the dictatorship was going to release you and other political prisoners?
There was no sign whatsoever as to the purpose of that action. It was really a surprise for each and every one of us. We found ourselves at the doors of an airplane, and there was the majority of the political prisoners, not only from El Chipote, but also of the different prisons of the country. Many of them for years or months had been subjected to arbitrary and illegal detentions, and absurd sentences.
We received reports of psychological torture, incessant interrogations, mistreatment, cruel treatment from El Chipote and other prisons. What were your conditions in El Chipote?
I would have to say that those conditions were conditions that offended the essence of humanity. There was no opportunity to have access to something as basic as reading, something so basic like recreation, like fluid communication. It was really a system that sought to keep you isolated from the outside, isolate you from your family, isolate you from the news, secluded you from the notion of time.
What was the most difficult thing for you during this time?
For me, the most difficult thing was the loss of my mother. I didn’t even have the right to know that my mother had passed away. I could not see my mother in her final days. All this really affected me a lot. I think it was the hardest moment because I was also locked up in a punishment cell, isolated, and those were really very difficult conditions, especially at that particular moment in my life. And, nevertheless, I tell you, and I can affirm in all honesty, that I believe that all this is worth it. All of this is worth it because it is for the well-being and for the future of the Nicaraguan people, for the freedom of the Nicaraguan people, a struggle which we are going to resume very soon.
How did you find out about your mother’s death, and how did you cope with it?
I found out almost a month after her death during a family visit because the visits or visitation processes were never duly specified. There were times that the visits were maybe once a month, or two months, or three months. Sometimes we could spend almost three months without having a family visit, without being able to see our relatives. And it was at this particular moment, during a brief visit, that I learned about my mother. And a month had passed since her death. In that sense, my key the support were my other fellow political prisoners, and the encouragement that my cellmates gave me at in that difficult moment that I had to live, especially in those arbitrary and illegal conditions.
The United States announced that it will offer a two-year temporary stay under the humanitarian program known as parole. Do you plan to stay now in the United States?
At this moment, since this has been a quite unforeseen decision, we are fulfilling the formalities of this process. It’s very recent to say at this time what the future has in store for us. I cannot really share with you a specific decision that I have taken. However, I can tell you that you can count on me to continue denouncing the arbitrariness, to continue speaking on behalf of the Nicaraguan people. Because one of the things that I really believe is that no one, not one more Nicaraguan, should be subjected to something like what I and my fellow political prisoners have been subjected to. No one deserves to go through that, and that can only end when, once and for all, we Nicaraguans put an end to the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, when Nicaragua is truly free and that moment will come very soon.
This Friday morning, February 10, the Government of Spain offered the nationality to all those released political prisoners, would you consider it?
It seems to me to be really a valuable gesture, of solidarity of the Spanish people, that the Government of Spain shows its support to Nicaraguan political prisoners. In my particular case, I have not made any specific decision. I believe that many of my fellow political prisoners will consider it. But it is also a very recent decision. Nevertheless, it gives us joy, because the solidarity of democratic people around the world, and the solidarity of these peoples with Nicaragua has been great. In particular for the release of each and every one of us, of all and each of the Nicaraguan political prisoners, and that has been essential. Without the support of the Nicaraguan people, and without the solidarity of all the democratic peoples of the world, we would not have been able to get the dictatorship to release us.