Franco Alexander Valdivia Machado

24 Years Old - Student and artist

Franco Alexander Valdivia Machado, “Renfan”

Although I lose days of my life, I will keep saying the truth, no matter the cost”


Murdered in Estelí on April 20, 2018

His artistic name was “Renfan,” and while his true passion was rap, Franco Valdivia Machado was a multifaceted young man who worked Monday to Friday in a carpentry shop, studied law at night, and was a baseball and softball umpire on weekends.  He composed “aware” rap with lyrics that addressed issues such as migration, violence, the use of weapons and self-knowledge.  He called his songs “school of thought,” and used that as a title for his debut album.  He was 24 years old, married, and the father of a 4-year-old daughter who today is learning his songs.

“Franco was a very quiet, low-key guy,” says his mother, Francisca Machado.  “He had his happy side and liked to get ahead and help others.  His dream was to finish his studies and compose songs.  He liked to read a lot and got a lot of ideas from books.”  His sister Francis Judith says her brother had very defined goals: to get his law degree and to create awareness among young people so they would dedicate themselves to loving and caring for their family.  “He wanted to improve as a person, a father, a son, a student and a brother,” she adds.

His sister says that Franco saw reading and studying as fundamental to getting ahead and developing critical thinking.  He wanted to have his own library and a small recording studio.  At some moment he wrote, “I used to stay up all night at the discotheques; now I stay up all night in the libraries.”  She recalls with sadness that the last weekend in April he was going to give her a book titled The language of love and children.  Now he can’t give it to her.

Franco got involved in the protests right from the beginning, on April 18, according to his sister.  “He was very indignant about the social security reforms because they affected all of us in the family.  Then, when the government’s response was to attack and beat the elderly in León and the students in the National Agrarian University, he got even angrier.”  On April 20 he joined the march that was going from the Francisco Espinoza National Institute, but the route was changed due to the presence of police, paramilitaries and pro-government forces blocking the streets.  When the attackers began shooting, Franco made a selfie video showing a homemade mortar in his hands and narrated his feelings about the violent repression.  In the midst of the chaos he was helping the wounded, among them César Castillo and Orlando Pérez.

Minutes after sending off his video, at approximately 9 o’clock at night, Franco Valdivia Machado was shot in the head in front of the Estelí Municipal Government building, killing him instantly.  His lifeless body was then desecrated and dragged by the paramilitaries, who dumped him in front of the San Juan de Dios Hospital at 10:30 pm.  The following day, the killers cleaned up the scene of the crime, eliminating fundamental evidence for any investigation of the case.  That same day, by way of protest, his funeral procession passed in front of the Municipal building with his rap music playing in the background.

On May 3, thirteen days after his murder, his remains were exhumed and transferred to Managua to conduct an autopsy that took all day.  His family does not understand why the General Prosecutor’s Office didn’t order the process that same night.  As Francis Valdivia says, “the preliminary results reveal that the person who shot my brother was shooting from what appears to have been a higher position.  The trajectory of the bullet is from left to right, entering the left eye and lodging in the lower right part.  There are some steps and a porch in the municipal offices.  In the videos, shots can be seen coming from those offices.”

“They closed off any access to justice,” his sister adds.  “Franco’s case is one of the best documented with scientific proof, but the General Prosecutor’s Office closed its doors to us and refused to give us a copy of the autopsy findings.  It has been an emotionally and physically draining process.  Still today, there’s no sign that my brother’s murder will be clarified or that anyone will be held accountable for this crime.”

A month before his death, Franco filmed did an interview in which he encourages young people to struggle for their dreams. “He left us a legacy of struggle, courage, and social awareness,” says Francis, and mentions that both a law firm and the Baseball Umpire Association in Estelí have named their organizations after him.

On April 19, the day before his death, Franco posted this rap-style poem on his Facebook page:

“Today is a great day to die

for not taking the road that

corruption wants us to choose.

And though I lose days of my life

I will keep saying the truth, whatever the cost.

Sandino had a dream and I assure you this wasn’t it.

I hope my protest bothers them; no one interferes with my thinking.

Don’t expect a reincarnation of Rigoberto López Pérez

and many minds light up to dissemble so many atrocities,

since there’s no tyrant like custom

nor people who oppose it.

In my monologue I always told you

and today I corroborate it so fatally,

since whoever brings down a tyrant and takes his place,

will sooner or later become another just like him.  Nicaragua.”

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