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Sergio Ramírez: 'What Nicaragua needs to get out of the dictatorship is an unarmed rebellion'


Exclusive interview with the Nicaraguan writer and politician. Daniel Vittar 06/19/2021 8:24 PM Clarí Politics Updated 06/19/2021 8:24 PM How would you describe the current situation in Nicaragua? - This is a dictatorship of the most classic, most traditional style of the Caribbean. It is a dictatorship where the rule of law has disappeared and has been replaced by laws of the vernacular tradition of politics. Very repressive laws. One could speak of

Daniel Vittar

06/19/2021 8:24 PM

  • Clarí

  • Politics

Updated 06/19/2021 8:24 PM

How would you describe the current situation in Nicaragua?

- This is a dictatorship of the most classic, most traditional style of the Caribbean. It is a dictatorship where the rule of law has disappeared and has been replaced by laws of the vernacular tradition of politics. Very repressive laws. One could speak of a cluster of five laws, including the one that is being applied most frequently now and which is a law for the defense of national sovereignty. Penalty for any opinion against the ruling family or the regime under the accusation of responding to foreign interests. If I see him as a novelist, he is nonetheless attractive because the law is worth even applauding. It says, verbatim, that it is a crime "to support, promote or applaud actions that undermine national sovereignty." It's the first time I've seen a law where clapping is forbidden! They are actually legal pretexts,a repressive legal framework that they use to repress.

- Why is Daniel Ortega now launching this wave of arrests?

- I believe that Daniel Ortega has found himself in a situation that he wanted to avoid at all costs, such as having to face a candidate who could challenge him, and who could lose those elections. He has decided, since he returned to power in 2006, never to lose. The last elections were a mockery of elections and he had no problem because the circumstances were different: at that moment there was a fake candidate and no one questioned the elections. But after 2018, when this tremendous repression occurred in Nicaragua where so many young people died, the situation has changed a lot. So now having open electoral campaigns, where people vote freely as in any country, is intolerable for Ortega. It seems to me that a plan like this, however brutal it may seem, has its political costs.I believe that Ortega knows that he is paying a very high cost. But there are costs that you have paid before. It is isolated internationally and not even its natural allies in Latin America can defend it at this time.

- Look that Argentina and Mexico refused to endorse in the OAS the resolution that condemned the detention of opponents

- Yes, but I give that the benefit of the doubt.

Supposedly between Mexico and Argentina there is talk of a mediation plan and the allegation that I heard from the Mexican ambassador to the OAS is that someone who undertakes to condemn a regime cannot be a mediator.

It could be that this mediation plan exists or not, I don't know.

But hey, I give you the benefit of the doubt.

But President Fernández has already made a statement, saying that the detention of the presidential candidates was not tolerable.

Sergio Ramírez, Nicaraguan writer.

(Courtesy SRM Office / Oswaldo Rivas)

- But is there real room for mediation?

- He will not accept mediation at this time.

While it is true that Presidents Fernández and López Obrador are sponsoring a mediation, Ortega will not accept until he has reached the other side of the river.

You will only accept it after the elections have passed.

Then he will open up "generously" to say I am going to negotiate and we are going to negotiate the prisoners.

"Generously" he is going to hand over the hostages he has now taken - the detained opponents.

This is what we see in authoritarian governments, which take hostages and then hand them over.

As Fidel Castro did at the time.

- In short, the detainees are an element of future negotiation

- Sure. In December or January they will become an element of negotiation and many people will breathe easy because, well, at least they released the prisoners. What I mean is that in the international arena, the Ortega regime and his wife know that they have nothing to lose. And that statements, such as the condemnation approved by the OAS, or that made by European governments or the United States, even, do not make a dent in their internal power. In the way the repressive power is articulated, with the Army, the police, the paramilitary groups, the statements do not make a dent. Neither in financial stability. He thinks that once he wins the elections, in his own way, the international community will continue to recognize him diplomatically, no matter how much it criticizes him. With the elections the governments will not withdraw the ambassadors,and that's all he needs right now. Cross the river.

- What position should the Latin American countries adopt regarding Nicaragua?

- I believe that they should adopt a firm position, and remember that Nicaragua is part of an inter-American system that is at risk due to the fact that a new family dictatorship takes root for a long time.

That, after all, conspires against the democratic stability of the continent.

And, in another sense, that this is not a problem restricted to human rights, but a matter of a political nature, which has to be seen by the inter-American political bodies.

- What was left of the Nicaraguan revolution, of that "so violently sweet Nicaragua" that Julio Cortázar spoke of?

- Nothing remains. What remains is a bad memory. Young people 'set the revolution on fire.' Not only the youngest, but also those who were part of the guerrillas and who went to fight against the “contras”, to expose their lives. They feel that it was a wasted effort, that it only served as fertilizer for a new dictatorship. And that the project for which they went to fight was left in rubble. There was nothing left. Literacy was lost; once again Nicaragua has a large percentage of illiterates. More than 70% of the population does not have a formal job; people live off gleanings. Poverty levels reach half the population. That which could not be changed with so much blood is already a frustration in itself. Added to this is the fact that the product of the revolution is Daniel Ortega and his family ruling, like any other traditional dictator of the past.So that in front of the young people who lived the revolution is a frustration. And in front of those who did not experience it, it is a deception. They see it as a big scam.

- What difference is there between Daniel Ortega of 79, whom you accompanied in the Governing Board, with the current one?

- Today he is one more traditional dictator of Latin America.

I think that the metamorphoses that dictators undergo are very interesting as seen by a novelist.

These transformations are not strange in the region.

They come up with the idea that they are absolutely essential.

Some don't even think of their death as a possibility.

Like the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, when Oriana Fallaci asked him what he thought of death and he replied: what is that, what is he asking me?

The idea of ​​immortality fully adheres to power.

And this makes a person say "without me this is a disaster, this is not going to work."

That is why I believe that Ortega is not going to cede power to him or to his own wife.

There is no succession here.

He is the embodiment of power.

Sergio Ramírez at his home in Managua.


- You argued that literature feeds on "true lies and lying truths". Can this be extrapolated to politics?

- Sure. Now the truth is alternative. And it seems like a semantic invention. There is an official narrative in Nicaragua that totally contradicts the truth. For example the narrative of the coup. The entire official discourse is based on an alleged coup that began in April 2018, when people took to the streets, marched, and set up barricades. And that ended in a great popular insurrection, without weapons. It wasn't like in '79 when we took out Somoza with real guns. There was none of that here and yet there were hundreds of deaths. But the official narrative is that this was a coup. A coup is when the Army, with its tanks and allied to a sector of society, takes power, imprisons the leaders, and takes over the media. That is a blow, not a few thousand young people who take to the streets.

- It seems that Latin American politics is getting closer and closer to magical realism

Well, Octavio Paz used to say that magical realism is the distance between reality that should have died a long time ago, and is still alive.

The lack of correspondence between what the constitutions of Latin America say and what is done.

In Nicaragua the constitution is there, nobody repealed it.

But reality totally contradicts it.

And this is already magical realism.

- In this purge of opponents Ortega included figures of the revolution

- Ortega was cruel to Dora María Téllez and Hugo Torres, two great figures of the Nicaraguan revolution. They were the ones who got him out of the Somoza jail. They commanded major assaults of the revolution. But they rebelled against Ortega in the 90s. We lost the elections there and it was accepted because the power was collegiate, not unipersonal. But Ortega, the next day, backs down and says that it is not possible because the power of the revolution, which was conquered with arms, would be lost. Ortega's speech was that it was necessary to continue governing from below, which implied making life impossible for the new government of Violeta Chamorro. Of course, within the ranks of the party there began to be differences. One sector of us thought that the only way to return to government was by respecting the democratic system and competing in elections.That, for Ortega, was social democracy. Those of us who were on that line were thrown out, and formed a new party, the MRS (Movimiento Renovador Sandinista). The entire leadership of this party is the one that today is swept away, is taken to jail. Because Ortega sees them as traitors. The betrayal of his obsolete and totally outdated idea of ​​what the revolution was. It must be taken into account that Ortega has not come out of the Cold War. The Cold War is long over, but he continues to breathe those airs.It must be taken into account that Ortega has not come out of the Cold War. The Cold War is long over, but he continues to breathe those airs.It must be taken into account that Ortega has not come out of the Cold War. The Cold War is long over, but he continues to breathe those airs.

- Do you see a way out of this crisis?

- The history of Nicaragua teaches that every time a dictatorial, authoritarian system is exhausted and is resolved by arms, the pattern repeats itself.

And the weapons are in the hands of a new leader.

What would be the profound change in a country as small and poor as Nicaragua?

That the solution is not for weapons.

That an exit from the dictatorship be achieved through a transition, with another means of struggle such as what people are trying now.

An unarmed rebellion.

The writer who "conspired" against the great tyrant

With a pained memory, which his pride partially attenuates, Sergio Ramírez cites dates, names, battles. Remember every episode of that internal war against the great dictator, Anastasio Somoza. "Tachito", as Somoza was known, was the third and last of a fierce dynasty of tyrants. Supported by the large American multinationals, he built his own empire at the expense of the Nicaraguans. He was as cruel as befits a Caribbean dictator. He murdered, tortured, or disappeared opponents, while feasting on his Miami or Texas mansions.

Ramírez did not have the strident glory that weapons give, like his fellow fighters: Ortega, Edén Pastora, Tomás Borge.

He had the discreet glory of the leadership of the Sandinista Front, where the "policies of social transformation," as he calls them, were forged.

Where literacy was planned, land distribution.

"I did not take up arms in the revolution, I never wore a military uniform," he says in Adiós Muchachos, an autobiography that he wrote just over a decade ago due to "excessive forgetfulness," as he clarifies.

In conversation with


by video call, from a place that he preferred not to specify, the writer spoke of these loves and heartbreaks.

Some time ago, in a talk with the poet and journalist Daniel Rodríguez Moya, he defined himself as a “conspirator”, a word that few dare to use, but that exemplifies the revolutionary struggle like no other.

“We were dumping Somoza, and it was a full-time job.

The conspiratorial job is very absorbing ”, he recalled wryly.

From a distance, he still feels passion for that revolutionary moment in Nicaragua.

Ramírez's memory does not forget.

In his folds he still retains the unequal fight against the "cons" paid by the United States, the bitterness of being away from his family, the anguish of seeing his son go to battle.

There is no regret, but there is a certain disappointment at the consequences. The novelist lives days full of disappointment, especially because the leader who accompanied power forty years ago became the other side of what the revolution meant. "He is a dictator." He says it with robust contempt, with ideological disgust. He knows that Ortega is not Anastasio Somoza, but he feels that it is almost the same. "That which could not be changed with so much blood, is already a frustration in itself", sentence.

What suffers as an offense is that the "dictator" continues to use Sandino's name as a flag.

“For me it is a philosophical concern.

Sandino fought for the identity of Nicaragua.

If that is no longer even valid in the memory of the country, it is history that remains annoying ”, he launches.

He is also infuriated by the fact that ex-combatants he admires so much are mistreated with jail and humiliating arrests, such as the legendary Dora María Téllez, who commanded the capture of León in the final offensive against Somoza, and Hugo Torres, that brigadier general without kinks.

Ramírez loves Nicaragua.

Its people, its climate, its streets.

He gets up early and starts to write, to read.

"My life is literature," he reaffirms, as if necessary.

Although he cannot prevent politics from appearing in every sentence.

He had to leave the country for medical treatment, and now he hesitates to return.

He knows that Ortega wants to wipe out all the rebels and, as a good dictator, especially those who dare to hate him.

And Ramírez is one of them.

"I'm meditating on it," he says about the return to Managua.

“It is that all the limits have been exceeded.

Now they don't mind paying costs ”.

The novelist no longer "conspires", he only writes.

This is how he fights the dictators, who cause him so much contempt.


Sergio Ramírez Mercado (78) is a writer, journalist, politician and lawyer.

He was born in Masatepe, a few km from Managua.

In 1977 he joined the Sandinista Front (FSLN) to fight against the Somoza dictatorship.

He was a member of the Governing Board in 1979 and later was vice president together with Daniel Ortega.

In the 1990s he broke with the FSLN and formed his own party.

But then he devoted himself fully to literature.

His novels and short stories were translated into more than 20 languages.

He won numerous awards, including the Cervantes.

Right now

A project:

My next novel, to be published by Alfaguara: “Tongolele didn't know how to dance”

A challenge:

Help the country change and have a democratic solution.

A leader:

I have two, Nélson Mandela and Martin Luther King.

A society that I admire:

Costa Rica, because it is a democratic society

A dream:


It is my recurring dream.

A meal:

A good barbecue with friends.

A drink:

I like whiskey.

A book:

There are so many books to cite.

But if I have to give you an answer, I'll take Pedro Páramo, by Juan Rulfo.

A movie:

Also, there are many that I would cite.

But I choose "Forbidden games".

A series:


Source: clarin

All news articles on 2021-06-25

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