- Carlos Serrano (@carliserrano)
- BBC News World
Ramírez won the Alfaguara novel prize in 1998, the Ibero-American literary prize “José Donoso” in 2011 and the Cervantes prize in 2017.
In the early morning hours of February 16, writer Sergio Ramírez learned in his sleep that he was no longer a Nicaraguan citizen.
Ramírez is one of the 94 people who lost that day “their civil rights forever”according to a verdict by the Nicaraguan judicial authorities.
“Order the loss of Nicaraguan citizenship for all defendants,” the Managua District Court of Appeals ruled.
They are accused of being “Traitor to the Fatherland”.
A week earlier, on February 9, the government of Daniel Ortega released 222 detained opponents and expelled them by air from the courts to the United States. They were also stripped of their citizenship.
Ramírez lives in exile in Madrid after the Nicaraguan prosecutor’s office issued an exhibit in 2021 an arrest warrant against him.
The writer, who was vice president in Ortega’s first government between 1985 and 1990, is now a staunch opponent.
Ramírez spoke to BBC Mundo about the court ruling and what this new measure against him means for him, Nicaragua and the Ortega government.
“They can skin you, but your country won’t take it from you even if they leave you raw.”
How did you find out that your Nicaraguan citizenship was taken away from you?
Because of the time difference, it was night and I was sleeping. At one point I went to the bathroom and saw the cell phone keep flashing. It seemed very strange to me, so I turned on the lamp and put on my glasses to read what was happening.
So I thought: It’s two in the morning here, no one knows I’m awake, so I’m going to take advantage and go back to sleep, I’m not going to wake my wife because of this.
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And did you manage to fall asleep again?
Yes, I fell asleep again… It’s just that look, although it sounds ordinary, I sleep with a clear conscience.
That is, I learn about the barbarism that they take away my citizenship and accuse me of treason. That’s a crime that doesn’t exist, it’s a bizarre crime.
Let’s remember that we come from countries where nothing is written, where laws are rewritten or deleted every day, this is a great anomaly in our countries.
Imagine being banished by a law that doesn’t exist, a law that doesn’t exist applies to me. Exile is forbidden in the Nicaraguan constitution, it is forbidden by international conventions. Exile is a medieval affair, a very primitive affair.
And even if there were laws, and I learned that in law school, they never apply retrospectively, you can’t invent a law and apply it backwards. This is a guarantee of procedural law conquered centuries ago and individual rights.
But hey, with Ortega we’re dealing with someone who has a stronger capacity for invention than me, who is a writer. It is someone who invents laws and regulations and who punishes with absolute discretion.
When I put myself in the head of a novelist it’s extremely attractive, but when I put myself in the shoes of a commoner it’s horrifying.
The way you speak it sounds like you’re taking on a certain sarcasm…
And how else can I take it? That someone pulls surprises out of a magician’s hat, takes capricious measures that come to mind, that was our story.
And as I told you, as a writer, that strikes me as very attractive, and as a citizen to have someone tell you that you no longer have a country, it comes as a shock.
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Sergio Ramírez (left) with Daniel Ortega.
How is all of this affecting you?
In the midst of storms, it is important to remain calm. It’s not like I’ve had to navigate stormy waters now.
Those were very difficult times during the Somoza dictatorship, I had to live in exile. I remember when I had to leave my family in Costa Rica to go back to Nicaragua to fight. My secret life in Nicaragua was also difficult, it was the fear, it was the uncertainty of the possibility of death.
Exile and depatriation already find me in a different time, where meditation is possible and action replaces it in many ways.
At the age of 30, I was a man determined to change not just Nicaragua but the world. Today I’m sitting on the side of the road for a bit, not because I don’t want to join the procession, but because I feel it’s my duty to reflect critically, to reflect on my past life, but also on the future of Nicaragua to that extent , in which I can contribute to building this future out of thoughts.
Little by little you have to get used to being a victim of the sense of absurdity.
I heard the tremendous noise that came up in reaction to this measure, which affected not only me, like distant echoes that you do not understand.
I think that’s a bit of that unreal feeling that comes over you when it comes to unforeseen events, but little by little you take over.
It’s an education. In life you have to train yourself to distance yourself from the drama. Just like writing, I like to distance myself from drama, I do it with humor because dramatic writing annoys me.
You said that this measure was a symbol of Ortega’s weakness, what do you mean by that?
A regime, however dictatorial, is based on consensus. A dictatorial regime uses repression, of course, but it is based on certain consensus, and I believe that the regime in Nicaragua has lost all of those consensus.
Now only the weapon of oppression remains. That seems to me to be a sign of great weakness.
Another sign of weakness that is very evident is that the well-meaning Presidents López Obrador of Mexico and Alberto Fernández of Argentina proposed to Ortega a path, a dialogue, a protocol that would lead to the release of prisoners.
But the regime’s response was terrible, insulting López Obrador and Fernández, who were supposed to be their natural allies, and accusing them of meddling.
Later, President Gustavo Petro of Colombia, who was also to be close to Ortega, proposed the same to him with great benevolence. And Ortega reacts again with the same violence. This provoked a very sharp reaction from Petro against Ortega.
So Ortega did not award the prisoners to this friendly president, but to the United States that is the enemy, according to his tedious speech that the United States is the implacable imperialist enemy.
And Ortega grants these prisoners seemingly for free, unilaterally. This is a political puzzle that needs to be solved.
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WhatWhat does all this situation mean for Nicaragua??
At this moment this message is reverberating in the world, we are in a hit parade.
But my great fear is that these reflectors will soon go off and Nicaragua will once again be forgotten by the foreign ministries, by the media…
And it’s not intentional, I just understand that there are much more acute, pressing problems in the world.
The war in Ukraine, for example, is a constant distraction from the problems of small, non-strategic countries.
Here comes the problem. Venezuela is a strategic country for great power interests, but Nicaragua is not because it has no strategic minerals, it has no rare earths, it has no oil, it is a small marginal economy.
And that leads to a great contradiction, a terrible contradiction.
The more people leave Nicaragua fleeing oppression or the terrible conditions in the country, the more the regime encourages them.
The regime is now receiving $3 billion in remittances from people who have fled to the United States, Costa Rica or Europe.
So, the larger the number of refugees, the more resources Ortega gets to maintain the minimum level of stability he needs in the country.
In addition, she continues to count on the generous favor of institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, which praises Ortega’s economic prowess and finances and encourages him to continue on the path he has taken.
What you’re trying to say is that Ortega’s business is getting people off their land?
yes it is a business As for Venezuela, for Guatemala, for Cuba, for the repressive regimes.
Why is there now an open bridge from Havana to Managua where visa requirements for Cubans have been abolished? First, because the Cubans leave and charge a fortune to fly to Nicaragua from a company that controls Cuba.
In Managua they receive them without a visa and continue on their way north, by the thousands. And thousands of other Nicaraguans are following the same path north.
So I’m telling you, it’s $3,000 million in foreign currency in favor of the IMF.
Nicaragua already owes more than its GDP.
So this is how a small economy can function without attracting the world’s attention.
Sergio Ramírez (left) with Fidel Castro (middle) and Daniel Ortega (right).
WhatWhat do you expect from the Cinternational community?
Don’t Forget Don’t forget that Nicaragua is experiencing real drama, that it’s a small border country.
Of course there are bigger dramas. The drama in Haiti, for example, is unprecedented. Haiti falls apart and nobody remembers it.
But that’s it, not forgetting that Nicaraguan drama is drama stuck in the heart of Central America.
You’ve fought for your father since you were youngYou come from different fronts and now you are reaching this age in exile, with charges against you and without your nationality. Was this fight worth it?
Naturally. One cannot measure the results of an effort by what has been done so far, but by the fruits that will lie in the future.
I would be very ashamed to be a writer standing on the sidelines and sitting on the side of the road regardless of what is happening in my country.
I understand very well that writing and political action are two different things, but I don’t see myself as a writer with closed blinds. I’m basically a writer, but a writer with an open window.
This is the only way I understand myself in relation to Nicaragua and my affiliation, namely Latin America.
Do you keep hope of returning to Nicaragua, or have you accepted exile?
I’m prepared for both. I hope, like so many who have been forced to leave the country, to return to Nicaragua.
And many are people who came out in more dramatic circumstances than I did.
I know some of these 222 prisoners who were deported to the United States, they are my friends. They are very relevant people, truly honest leaders.
I believe that the future leadership of Nicaragua was in prison there. But the vast majority are also unnamed boys, people for whom this is the first time they have boarded a plane.
They are boys who came to the United States, not speaking the language, not knowing anyone. There were humanitarian organizations looking for alternative homes for them.
So that’s the real drama, people who really have been exiled from their country and put under very harsh conditions.
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What are you doingNOlately?
I dedicate myself to writing. I haven’t been able to these days, but every morning I dedicate myself to writing.
Here in Madrid I get up a little later than in Nicaragua. In Nicaragua I wrote at 7 a.m., here it is dark at 7 a.m. Also, I’m going to bed later.
But I organize my time quite disciplined. I write from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. In the afternoon I like to walk around Madrid, it’s a lovely city to walk around.
And then I read, I have to read a lot, it’s hard to explain. I read on the couch until 11 p.m., go to bed, change the book and continue reading.
What does it mean to you to be Nicaraguan?
The country is memory, feelings, childhood, my hometown, volcanoes, it’s what they can’t take from me.
Taking someone’s land is a completely absurd thing. They can even skin you, but your country won’t take it away from you even if they leave you raw.
The country is under the skin, it is in the bones, in the blood. I don’t think they won’t take your country even if they take your life.
The papers don’t matter. But above all, who takes the paper from you, what legitimacy does the person who takes on the role have from you, that gives me more security.
Are you still Nicaraguan?
Naturally. Born on August 5, 1942 in Masatepe, Masaya Department, into a family of poor musicians.
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