Renowned Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramirez, Daniel Ortega’s vice president from 1985-1990, was formally indicted by the regime’s legal apparatus on September 8. The Public Prosecutor’s office – a tool of the Ortega government – has charged him with crimes of “conspiracy to undermine the national integrity” and “money and asset laundering”. These are the same catch-all charges the regime has used to imprison other opposition leaders and independent professionals in the context of Nicaragua’s upcoming elections.
The charges against the 79-year-old recipient of the Miguel de Cervantes Prize included conducting: “acts that foment and incite hatred and violence”. He was also accused of having received financing from the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, though the Luisa Mercado Foundation, which promotes the well-recognized festival Centroamerica Cuenta. The latter event, currently held virtually, brings together prominent writers and artists from Ibero-America.
The prosecution asked for an arrest warrant to be issued for Ramirez, and a search warrant for his home. The charges were filed in absentia since Sergio Ramirez left Nicaragua in June, shortly after attending an interrogation session at the Public Prosecutor’s office. He had already announced his intention not to return to the country to avoid government reprisals.
The regime is trying to link the writer to a program called “Media for Nicaragua”, which was financed by the shuttered Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation. The regime alleges – without evidence – that the funds were used for “other aims than those of the foundation”. Specifically, they accuse him of “financing people and organizations that sought to destabilize the march of the country’s social and economic development.”
The Public Prosecutor bases their accusations on articles 282, 410 and 412 of Nicaragua’s Criminal Code. This dictates up to 15 years in prison for anyone found guilty of the above crimes.
Sergio Ramirez: “They’ll never impose silence on me”
The writer responded to the accusations in a video posted on YouTube. In it, he commented: “it’s not the first time this has happened in my life. In 1977, the Somoza family accused me through their own Public Prosecutor, and their own judges, of crimes similar to those of today: terrorism, illicit association to commit crimes, and attempts to alter the peace and public order. [These accusations occurred] when I was battling against that dictatorship, just as I’m now battling against this other one.”
“Dictatorships lack imagination and repeat their lies, their brutality, their hate and their whims. They’re the same delusions, the same blind obsession for power, and the same mediocrity of those who – holding in their hands the repressive instruments, and having shed all scruples – also believe that themselves the owners of the dignity, consciences and freedom of the rest.”
Sergio Ramirez is one of the most renowned contemporary Latin American writers, recipient of the 1998 Alfaguara Prize for his novel Margarita, how beautiful the sea”; the 2011 Jose Donoso Literature Prize; and the 2017 Miguel de Cervantes prize, among others. His latest novel, Tongolele no sabe bailar [Tongolele can’t dance] is set amid the 2018 civic protests in Nicaragua and the regime’s subsequent repression. The novel, third in a detective trilogy, will be presented in Madrid, Spain, next week.
“I’m a writer committed to democracy and freedom, and I won’t cease in this endeavor from wherever I may be. My literary work of years is the work of a free man… The only weapons I possess are words, and they’ll never impose silence on me,” he stressed.
“The Ortega family dictatorship has accused me through their own Prosecutor’s Office and their own judges of the same crimes of inciting hatred and violence, undermining the national integrity and others I haven’t had time to read. Many honorable and courageous Nicaraguans are currently prisoners in the dungeons of this same family for these same accusations,” noted Ramirez.
Persecution of the opposition
Since May, the regime of Daniel Ortega has intensified their persecution of opposition leaders and independent professionals. During the past four months, 36 people have been arrested and jailed; 31 of them have now been formally charged with crimes of conspiracy, money laundering, illegal arms possession and/or spreading fake news.
Another eight independent professionals, currently out of Nicaragua and beyond the regime’s reach, have been accused of similar crimes.
This week, Ortega referred to the opposition leaders who remain in jail for alleged treason as “terrorists”, and to the Nicaraguan bishops and priests who criticize his government as “demons in priest’s robes” and “Satanists”.
According to the ruler, his adversaries “were preparing to repeat history the social uprising (of April 2018) and justice is being done. That’s all – justice is being done against the terrorists.”
Sergio Ramirez served as Ortega’s vice president from 1985 to 1990. He was Ortega’s running mate in the 1990 elections, won by Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.
The Luisa Mercado Foundation
Sergio Ramirez directs the Luisa Mercado Foundation, named for his mother. Luisa Mercado taught generations of Nicaraguans, and the foundation that bears her name is aimed at promoting cultural and educational development in benefit of the youth, creators, and educators.
According to their webpage, the Luisa Mercado Foundation is a non-profit organization based in Sergio Ramirez’ home town of Masatepe, in Masaya department.
The Foundation has a public library that offers free loan of books, use of computers and the internet for students, teachers and researchers, a book club and literary workshops on poetry and narrative, plus help on methods of study, and the basics of writing and documenting.
It also runs a music school, seedbed of the “Lisandro Ramirez Velasquez” orchestra, according to the summary offered by Ramirez.