When Gioconda Belli left Nicaragua for the last time, on May 5, 2021, she did not know that she was not going to return, let alone that the Government of Daniel Ortega was going to take away her nationality and confiscate her properties, something that has happened this week. This was announced by the regime. The name of the poet and Ortega’s former companion in the fight to liberate the country from the Somoza dictatorship was part of a list that included 93 other Nicaraguans, including writers, journalists -more than twenty-, religious, activists and former officials. of the State.
The first hours after the announcement were marked by a stony silence on the part of these new stateless persons – this is not the case of Belli, who also has Italian nationality, or of the writer Sergio Ramirez, who received Spanish citizenship in 2018. Bewilderment, fear and indignation seized many of them. ABC spoke by telephone with Belli this Saturday about the latest repressive actions of the Sandinista regime, which one day she came to support, and today it has become another dictatorship and a nightmare.
–What did you think when you found out that you were on the list of the 94 people from whom the Ortega government withdrew their nationality and confiscated their assets?
-I thought about the atrocity that Daniel Ortega was committing against 94 people that the only thing we have done is say what we think of our country, with all the right that assists us to use our free expression; and how terrible it is. The right to nationality is an inalienable right, it is protected by treaties, by article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There are only precedents for dictatorships like Hitler’s, who took the Jews’ citizenship away so he could do whatever he wanted with them. The loss of citizenship is the loss of the right to have rights. It leaves you in the greatest defenselessness before a regime that wanted to harm us. And immediately afterwards they tell you that they are going to confiscate your assets, as if you had acquired them in an illegal or criminal way. Another insult. A person my age… Imagine, at 73, being stripped of all the product of your work, your house, which I had since 1987… And that you have no legal recourse…
–Do you know if the Nicaraguan authorities have already entered your house or have made any movement that affects the properties of the 94 people on that list?
-They already erased all the properties from the civil registries. We know that all the properties have already been transferred to the State, and that they have erased us from the civil registry. All the paper that was in the registry about me -my birth certificate, marriage certificate…- they erased it. I ceased to exist as a person in Nicaragua.
–How do you feel about this situation?
-One feels the need for the world to realize the type of person that Daniel Ortega is. That Latin America take a tougher position against this type of actions by a government and a dictatorship, and that it stop putting lukewarm cloths and being an accomplice to Daniel Ortega, a person who is willing to do anything, such as the exile of political prisoners, who were stripped of their nationality and sent out of the country (to the United States). It takes away their country and, not only that, it takes away their nationality. He leaves them in another State, without resources, he leaves them stateless. That is unheard of cruelty in these times. He is a dictator like we have not had another in Latin America for a long time.
«All the paper that was in the registry about me – my birth certificate, marriage certificate – was erased. I ceased to exist as a person in Nicaragua.”
-Were you surprised by the Ortega regime’s decision to release and deport 222 political prisoners to the US?
-Yes of course. We had no idea, just like they did when they got on that plane. On the one hand, I was happy because they were (in prison) in such deteriorated conditions, regarding their health, they were isolated… The Nelson Mandela rules say that you cannot keep anyone in isolation for more than 15 days, and they kept four isolated women for 600 days. Dora Maria Tellez he said that he was losing the ability to speak and that he had to sing a little in the cell every day so as not to lose the use of his vocal cords. They really are white tortures. They are called that because they do not leave marks on the body, but they keep you in a two-by-two cell without giving you a book, nothing to read or write with, with the light on or off all the time… These are a type of torture that leaves very big sequels in the psyche. That is the type of person who is ruling Nicaragua. He (Ortega) and his wife (Rosario Murillo) are daily trampling the Constitution of our country, which in article 20 says that no national may be deprived of his nationality.
–What do you think these latest decisions made by the Ortega regime are due to? What’s your objective?
-In 2018, when the people rose up to protest, it was when they (Ortega and Murillo) kept quiet about the idea they had that they were doing very well, and that everyone accepted them. Suddenly they realized that this was not the case, and they attacked the protesters – they killed more than 300 people, including many young people, with snipers -, then they arrested many people, later an amnesty was achieved, they removed part of they, some of whom they took back to prison before the 2021 elections. Knowing they were going to lose, they detained all the electoral candidates. What you see is a regime that is terrified, that is afraid of its own citizens, and that is seeing that the only way to maintain power is with arms, with repression, and eliminating every voice that wants to oppose them. The pulpit remained, and what they did was arrest the priests and the bishop of Matagalpa (Rolando Alvarez), who was a highly respected voice in Nicaragua. The day after the 222 political prisoners were deported (a measure that he did not accept) he was sentenced to 26 years in prison.
“Latin America must take a tougher position and stop putting lukewarm cloths and being an accomplice of Daniel Ortega”
-In 2018, some voices pointed to Vice President Rosario Murillo as the person who had ordered the repression against the protesters; A few days ago, Ortega acknowledged that she was behind the decision to deport the political prisoners. Would this woman, whom Ortega calls “co-president” and whose ambition is well known, be getting out of the way of any future opponent who wants to compete for the presidency?
-I imagine that this could be an explanation, but he (Ortega) is not going to give him the presidency until he dies, that bothers him a lot. She is a person who has a very vindictive character, and who has shown in practice that she is merciless and that she has enormous power over Daniel Ortega. But he is an accomplice and is part of that binomial. He is also a hot-tempered person. We experienced it in 1990 when he eliminated, not physically, all of us who questioned his leadership, after the electoral defeat (at the hands of Violeta Barrios de Chamorro).
–When was the last time you were in Nicaragua?
-I left there on May 5, 2021 to visit my daughters, whom I had not seen during the pandemic that I went through in Nicaragua where I had been living for a long time. I was planning to return on July 21, but when I was away I realized that I couldn’t return. In February 2022, my husband and I decided to come to Spain.
–Do you have asylum in Spain and Spanish nationality?
-No, I have Italian nationality because of my Italian ancestors.
-The Government of Pedro Sanchez has offered Spanish nationality to the more than 300 Nicaraguans who have been stripped of theirs in recent weeks, and also to those who suffer the same loss in the future…
-Thanks to Spain because this has been a gesture of enormous solidarity, which is going to be very important so that all these people can recover their lives.
Will Nicaragua one day recover its democracy, or will it become a new Cuba?
-I believe that these people (Ortega and Murillo) are very weak, according to the surveys; people are terrified. But Nicaragua is a country that throughout its history has been very rebellious. I think there is going to be an implosion.