Sergio Ramírez (Masatepe, Nicaragua, 80 years old) lived in two exiles. The first because he opposed the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza as the leader of the Sandinistas. The second is the one he is suffering today for opposing the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. The writer, winner of the Cervantes Prize and
The former vice president of Nicaragua was stripped of his nationality and property this week along with 93 other opponents. It is the latest offensive by the President and his wife, who last week deported 222 political prisoners to the United States and declared them “stateless”. Ramírez, who has a Spanish passport since 2018, is attending EL PAÍS via videoconference from Madrid, where he lives. At the beginning of the interview, his phone rings: it is the Spanish Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares, who informs him that Pedro Sánchez’s government is also offering citizenship to this last group of exiles. His smile was full of emotion.
Questions. How are you feeling the last few days?
Answer. These things need to be dealt with at a distance. As a writer, I’ve learned the art of distance. When reality hits you hard, you have to look at it as if it happened to someone else. It’s the way to start assimilating what’s happening to you. It was two in the morning when I got the message. I saw the phone flash in the night as it let off sound. I got up and saw this message. I read it, went into the living room for a while and said, well, nobody’s there at this time, so I’ll go to sleep and we’ll see tomorrow. The idea that they could take your land from you is absurd, it doesn’t make sense. No legal sense because it violates the Nicaraguan Constitution. There is not even the penalty of banishment, they are barbaric punishments erased from the Enlightenment. And then the idea that someone can take away something that lives inside you, which is your country… That convinces you that it’s absurd. Someone wanted it as an act of revenge or an act of desperation, but it’s an act that’s trying to hit so many people. And of course it hits you.
Q And why do you think they want to take Nicaragua from them?
R He [Ortega] It accumulates such a large number of political prisoners and becomes unsustainable over time. Some time ago, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Argentine President Alberto Fernández proposed a kind of transitional protocol for the release of these political prisoners as a first step towards a democratic understanding, a dialogue. He angrily refused. Later, when President Gustavo Petro came into the Colombian government, he also took an initiative of this kind and was rejected in the same way. [Ortega] He declared last week that this is a unilateral act and that there will be no reciprocations, but he leaves them to what he sees as the imperialist enemy, the United States. In view of this contradiction, a countermeasure must be found. It is not a sign of strength, it is an unusual act that is politically shocking the world. It is an untimely act to have someone’s citizenship revoked, and therefore an act of weakness.
Q You have lived in two exiles for fighting Somoza and another for defying Ortega. What is the difference?
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R I was 30 years old when Somoza declared me a traitor to the country. That’s the big difference and I went back to Nicaragua. I was living in exile in Costa Rica, and we challenged Somoza again, and later, when the palace was taken over, on August 21, 1978, I went into life in secret. He was ready for the fight, he was part of the fight. What touches me today is critical reflection. I am not a politician, I am a critical writer who cannot remain silent. I see the situation in Nicaragua through a different lens. The one who has had these repeated experiences and wants them not to be repeated again. And the first thing I don’t want to repeat in Nicaragua is a bloody confrontation, that a confrontation would have to take place in the country to get out of another dictatorship. This appalls me because I know what it costs and that it doesn’t lead to any real solution. I know that anyone who comes to power by force of arms ends up being a tyrant again, and I will fight to make sure that doesn’t happen. My fight is for democracy, for Nicaragua to have a peaceful outcome, a transition that must come. There is no other way out than the transition to democracy. That all Nicaraguans can participate in this entire transition, including those in power.
Q In addition to the Spanish government’s gesture, the international condemnation was very broad. Of the main Latin American countries, however, only Chile has expressed a clear rejection.
R There are countries that take refuge in supposed neutrality and say they are dealing with another country’s affairs, and that seems to me to be a mistake. The problem is that there is still a certain notion that some facts are legitimate in the name of certain ideas. President Gabriel Boric’s demand that it is his duty to be critical of violence against human rights from whatever ideological side always seemed very important to me. I have read the statement by the Mexican government, which does not support Ortega but is not overtly critical either, and by the Colombian government, which is a little more openly opposed to exile and oppression. But what are the two axes of response that seem most important to me? That of Chile and that of Spain.
Q What do you think of Bishop Rolando Álvarez’s decision to refuse to board the exile’s plane?
R. I get it, but it is very important to note that the monsignor is not an earthly political leader. He is a spiritual leader, a prophetic being, a man of enormous ethical weight. If you refuse to board the plane, you do so because you believe it is your duty to stay. And when he says, “Enjoy the freedom, I’ll pay for it,” it’s not rhetorical. you speak the truth
Q His life is shaped by the fight for freedom in Nicaragua. Do you think you will meet her?
R I am almost 80 years old [ríe], but I am sure that I will see the democratic change in Nicaragua, that I will return to my country. I never thought of returning to my country individually. I want to be in those moments of change. That’s where I want to be and be a writer, not a politician.
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