Rodrigo Madrigal Nieto, a distinguished Costa Rican of national and international repute, passed away Wednesday at dawn.
At 82, he had accumulated a long list of accomplishments in journalism, law, foreign relations and peacemaking.
Madrigal set out on a long political career as a young college student. As president of the Federation of Students of the University of Costa Rica (FEUCR) in 1947, he entered the early stages of later tireless efforts to contribute to peace in Central America by getting involved in protests against Central American military dictatorships.
Madrigal, who obtained degrees in both law and journalism, worked as a journalist for years and in 1962 became director of the daily La República. He also directed the now-defunct Diario de Costa Rica.
Later, as president of the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), he battled to reopen the Nicaraguan daily La Prensa after dictator Anastasio Somoza closed it down.
Years later, he convinced Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega not to shut it down again.
From 1978-82,Madrigal was a legislator, and served as Legislative Assembly president from 1978-79, according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry.
He is well known for his work as Foreign Minister during President Oscar Arias’ first administration (1986-1990). In a statement from Casa Presidencial this week, Arias highlighted Madrigal’s work toward the Central American peace process. As minister, Madrigal played a key role in negotiating and drafting the regional Peace Plan that earned Arias the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987.
At the government Cabinet meeting this week in the Southern Zone canton of Pérez Zeledón, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary, Arias and members of his Cabinet expressed their sorrow over Madrigal’s death.
“Costa Rica must recognize his democratic vocation and permanent commitment to liberty, peace and the best values of Costa Rican society,” Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno said.
In 1988,Madrigal helped found the nonprofit Foundation for Peace and Democracy (FUNPADEM), over which he had presided since. The San José-based foundation works to create better living conditions for Central Americans.
He also belonged to many professional societies throughout the past decades, including the Center for Study of National Problems and the Presidential Commission for Restructuring the Foreign Ministry and Costa Rican Foreign Service.
Madrigal, whose hobbies included playing tennis and stamp collecting, was a believer in Central American integration.
“We have to work together to improve the situation of Central America.We can’t ignore our neighbor countries. In that sense, I have been a small builder of the idea of Central American integration,” Madrigal told The Tico Times in an August 2004 interview.
In 2004, he received the highest honor awarded by the Secretariat for Central American Economic Integration (SIECA), the Distinguished Central American Award.
Madrigal received scores of other awards and distinctions, including decorations from the governments of Mexico, Spain, Taiwan, Colombia, Germany, Belgium, Peru, and El Salvador, the newswire ACAN-EFE reported.
His death “is a great loss. He was a person whose ideals stayed solid since he entered public life. He always thought about democracy, and his thoughts never strayed,” FUNPADEM spokeswoman Elizabeth Badilla told The Tico Times this week.
According to Badilla, Madrigal was diagnosed with a serious disease approximately two months ago and he died of complications during his treatment. She said she did not have authorization from Madrigal’s family to reveal further details about the causes of death.
Madrigal is survived by his wife Myriam Faith, his daughters Carmen Eugenia, Ana Victoria and Georgina and his son Rodrigo, many grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
President Arias joined family and friends at Madrigal’s funeral, held yesterday afternoon at the DonBoscoChurch in western San José.