By Gabriela Selser (dpa*)
HAVANA TIMES – The Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramirez, recipient of the 2017 Cervantes Prize for Literature, stated Sunday that President Daniel Ortega has let “the evil genie out of the bottle,” by responding to the crisis that his government faces with “chaos and terror”, a response that has caused a hundred deaths in six weeks, according to human rights organizations.
Vice President during Ortega’s first government (1985-1990), the prize-winning author of “Castigo Divino” [“Divine Punishment”] affirmed in an interview with dpa that Ortega, the 72-year-old former guerilla, has sealed his own fate and won’t succeed in remaining in power.
Something never before seen in Nicaragua is being seen now: a huge peaceful rebellion of broad social sectors, which nonetheless today seem to be heading for a war. How do you view what’s happening?
Sergio Ramirez: You can’t have a war unless there are two armed bands, and there’s only one here: the one attacking the civilian population from the seat of power in a manner ever more insidious and indiscriminate. More than a war, there’s chaos and lethal aggression: fires set, businesses attacked, assaults by the shock troops in the streets and roads, executions… It would seem that the objective is to sow terror so that the population demobilizes.
The government and the Sandinista Party have been accused of contracting gang members and delinquents to attack civilians and damage property, many of these State properties. What consequences will all this have for the people and for the country?
SR: They’ve let an evil genie out of the bottle in the form of these anarchic forces sent to seed chaos. The consequences will be felt by all of society, regardless of their political colors. And they’re unpredictable consequences. Already children of police and court officials – staunch supporters of Ortega – have died.
It seems that the slogan is that no one is safe. Yesterday [Friday, 6/1], in the Managua barrio of Rubenia, the mobs killed a citizen of the United States who had come to assist a friend who called him to ask for help, because he was in the hands of a mob. That now brings international conflicts. And that’s also unforeseeable when you let the genie out of the bottle.
In one of your recent journalistic articles, “The grandchildren of the revolution,” you stated that the big difference between this rebellion and the revolution that triumphed in 1979 is that this one is peaceful. Given the disproportionate reaction of the police and the paramilitary forces, could we be facing a scenario where the opposition also begins to arm itself?
SR: I wouldn’t want to see that, because another civil war is completely undesirable. No one wants it. But the civic resistance, which is legitimate, is being repressed without mercy, at a cost that has already surpassed 100 deaths in less than two months. At this pace, we’re already in the middle of a bloodbath. The government is the only one responsible for stopping this madness.
The army has promised to maintain itself outside the conflict and has corrected versions of its supposed involvement with snipers. Do you believe they’ll maintain this position?
SR: The army has officially denied any participation in the repression and deserve credit for this. In the debacle we’re living through, with all of the institutions in rags and tied to the train of an abusive power, the only institution that continues to be trustworthy is the Army. They have my respect. But it seems to me that if there are paramilitary forces, this violates Article 95 of the Constitution, which says that there can’t be any other armed forces in the national territory except for those established by law. And the Army should be obligated to disarm them.
How would you judge the outside response to this crisis? Up until now, only the United States, Costa Rica, Mexico and the European Parliament have condemned the government violence, along with Amnesty International and the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. How do you interpret the silence from the rest of Latin America?
SR: This silence is beginning to be broken, not only in Latin America but also in Europe and in the US public opinion. The declaration of the UN General Secretary, Antonio Guterres, is clear and to the point, and the Human Rights Commissioner from the UN insists on being allowed to enter Nicaragua with a fact-finding mission. There’ll be more and more attention as they continue killing defenseless citizens.
In response to the outcry for him to leave office, the president said: “Here we’ll all stay”. As someone who knows Daniel Ortega very well, how do you view his words?
SR: If his phrase means, “here we all stay, with me in power,” that’s a wish of his with no real possibility. His time is up. His own actions took the option away from him. And history is an implacable judge.
* [Deutsche Presse-Agentur, a German news agency]