Sergio Ramirez (Masatepe, Nicaragua, 80 years old) has lived in two exiles. The first, for confronting the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza as a Sandinista leader. The second is the one he suffers today for opposing the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. The writer, winner of the Cervantes Prize and
former vice president of Nicaragua, was stripped this week of his nationality and property along with 93 other opponents. It is the latest offensive by the president and his wife, who last week expelled 222 political prisoners to the United States and declared them “stateless.” Ramirez, who has had a Spanish passport since 2018, attends EL PAIS by videoconference from Madrid, where he lives. At the beginning of the interview his phone rings: it is the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jose Manuel Albares, who tells him that the Government of Pedro Sanchez is also offering citizenship to this last group of exiles. He fills his smile with emotion.
Ask. How do you feel in the last days?
Answer. These things must be treated at a distance. As a writer, I have learned the art of distances. When reality hits you hard, you have to look at it as if it were happening to someone else. It is the way to begin to assimilate what is happening to you. When I received the news it was two in the morning. I saw the phone flash in the night as it left it without sound. I got up and saw this news. I read it, I went to the living room for a while and I said well, nobody gets on at this time, so I go back to sleep and tomorrow we’ll see what happens. The idea that they can take away your country is absurd, it doesn’t make any sense. No legal sense, because it goes against the Nicaraguan Constitution. There is not even the penalty of banishment, they are barbaric penalties that were eliminated from the Enlightenment. And then the idea that someone can take away something that is living inside of you, which is your country… That convinces you that it is absurd. Someone wanted it as an act of revenge or as a desperate act, but it’s an act that tries to hit so many people. And, of course, it hits you.
R. He [Ortega] It accumulates such a large number of political prisoners and over time it becomes unsustainable. Some time ago, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and President Alberto Fernandez of Argentina proposed a kind of transition protocol to release these political prisoners as the first step towards a democratic understanding, a dialogue. He angrily rejected it. Later, when President Gustavo Petro came to the Government of Colombia, he too took an initiative of this type and it was rejected in the same way. [Ortega] He declared last week that it was a unilateral act and that there are no concessions in return, but he hands them over to what he considers to be the imperialist enemy, the United States. So, faced with this contradiction, he has to find a countermeasure. It does not show strength, it is an unusual act that has horrified the world politically. It is an untimely act for someone to be stripped of his citizenship, and therefore an act of weakness.
Q. You have lived in two exiles, for fighting Somoza and another for opposing Ortega. What is the difference?
R. When Somoza declared me a traitor to the country, I was 30 years old. That is the big difference and what I did was return to Nicaragua. I lived in exile in Costa Rica and we again challenged Somoza and later, when the palace was taken over, on August 21, 1978, I went to live clandestinely. He was ready for the fight, he was part of the fight. Today what touches me is critical reflection. I am not a politician, I am a critical writer who cannot be silent. I see the situation in Nicaragua with another lens. The one of those who have lived these experiences that are repeated and would like them not to be repeated again. And the first thing that I would like to see not be repeated in Nicaragua is a bloody confrontation, that a confrontation would have to take place in the country to get out of another dictatorship. That horrifies me, because I know the cost that it has and that it does not lead to any real solution. I know that whoever rises to power through arms ends up being a tyrant again and I am going to fight so that this does not happen. My fight is for democracy, for giving Nicaragua a peaceful exit, a transition that has to 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 gesture of the Government of Spain, the international condemnation has been very broad. However, among the main Latin American countries, only Chile has expressed a resounding repudiation.
Q. What do you think of the decision of Bishop Rolando Alvarez, who refused to board the exile’s plane?
R.. I understand 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. When he refuses to get on the plane, he is doing so because of his convictions that it is his duty to stay. And when he says ‘enjoy the freedom, I’m going to pay for it’, he is not being rhetorical. He is speaking the truth.
Q. His life is marked by the fight for the freedom of Nicaragua. Do you think you will meet her?
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