Sergio Ramirez: “No State Power has the Right to Confiscate”

Sergio Ramirez (r) in an interview with Carlos F. Chamorro on the Esta Semana TV program. Photo: Fred Ramos, El Faro

Author Sergio Ramirez analyzes the violent escalation of the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship

“These repressive waves are responses to the measures that the United States has been taking against the Government and its representatives.”

Por Wilfredo Miranda Aburto  (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Officials of the Police Special Operations Department continue to illegally occupy the newsrooms of Confidencial and “Esta Semana” (This Week). A Police minibus arrives every 24 hours to relieve the officers who stand guard with rifles since Friday night.

Four days have passed since they confiscated the building and no competent authority has presented a single document to justify this action, which, in the opinion of author Sergio Ramirez, demonstrates “clearly” that in Nicaragua there is no rule of law.

“The Constitution is not working; the laws are not worth the paper they are printed on,” said Ramirez, a former Vice President of Nicaragua (1985-1990) and recent winner of the Cervantes Award, the highest Spanish language literary standard. “Confiscation is an unconstitutional measure,” he pointed out.

After the seizure of the newsrooms of Confidencial and Esta Semana, the Director, Carlos Fernando Chamorro, went to claim the property on Saturday morning. The officers who occupied it were found watching a soccer game on a sofa and with their feet on a chair. The policemen did not provide any explanation to Chamorro and recommended he seek answers at police headquarters.

At the gates of the headquarters, the explanation that the journalist and his team received were shoving, insults, blows, kicks and blows with clubs by furious anti-riot policemen.

“We see the arbitrariness very clearly when they confiscate private companies. It is an attack on the private companies that produce these media outlets, which are registered as a corporation in the Mercantile Registrar,” noted Ramirez on the program “Esta Semana”, whose edition on Sunday was done against the clock at the facilities of Channel 12 due to the police occupation. “That does not seem to make any difference to the arbitrary power that sends [its agents] to liquidate these media and to occupy them.”

The Ortega-Murillo regime associates Invermedia and Promedia—companies that produce Confidencial and the television programs Esta Semana and Esta Noche—with the Communication Research Center (CINCO). The legal status of CINCO was cancelled by the National Assembly controlled by Ortega, and with that argument they committed the raid and confiscation of the newsroom of Confidencial, despite the fact that the companies represented by Chamorro have nothing to do legally or administratively with CINCO.

“Confiscation is an unconstitutional measure,” highlighted Ramirez. The constitutional reform of 1995 established it as a kind of safeguard for private property after the disastrous experience of the expropriations during the Sandinista Revolution.

“Confiscating the property of a news program, which belongs to the realm of private enterprise, are prohibited by the Constitution. In Nicaragua there is no confiscation. Confiscation is only for the sake of public utility. If you are going to build a road, an amusement park, then the government expropriates and then compensates. That is the only case. No State power has the power to confiscate anyone in the country,” emphasized Ramirez, in reference to the National Assembly and the Ministry of the Interior.

Its response to US sanctions

Ramirez assured that the repressive escalation against Confidencial and the nine non-governmental organizations annulled by the Assembly, is the response of the dictatorship to US sanctions.

Under the official logic, people from these organizations are responsible for the approval of the Nica Act law. In their words they are “traitors to the homeland,” who went to Washington to lobby for the approval of this measure that imposes individual sanctions on members of the dictatorship and restricts the country’s access to loans from international organizations.

However, what the Ortega-Murillo regime does not say is that the Nica Act and individual sanctions against the Vice President and First Lady were motivated by its authoritarian drift. The subsequent speeding up of approval came after the massacre committed since April.

“There is a suspension of the rule of law. There are no constitutional guarantees, there is no validity of individual rights…these repressive waves are responses to the measures that the United States has been taking against the Government and its officials. That is also arbitrary because they are independent things,” said Ramirez.

With these actions the presidential couple send a message of strength to their militarized bases, to those who execute the repression and to their “iron circle”, said Ramirez. The ten-day period that President Donald Trump has to sign the Nica Act is about to expire. The approval of the sanctions is taken for granted in the White House.

“Ortega and Murillo want to make us think that they are still (in power). To continue ahead amid the total ungovernability of the country, said Ramirez. Although the writer said that you would “have to be inside” the mind of the presidential couple to have an accurate answer on the political strategy being drawn up in their El Carmen bunker. Ramirez, who knows Daniel Ortega closely after being his Vice President in the eighties, said that El Carmen is likely to act according to the negotiating tradition that has characterized it: “It is about accumulating chips inside a box: political prisoners, expropriations, abuses, arbitrariness, so that when the times comes to negotiate, be able to hand over that pile of chips and remain in the situation previous to April 17.” However, the writer notes that to pretend to do so is a mistake. “That is not possible anymore. This crisis has a level of illegitimacy, a lack of institutionality, a lack of democracy, which cannot be resolved by putting chips on the board,” said Ramirez. 

A regime lacking consensus

What many analysts and citizens have said is shared by Ramirez: “Nicaragua is not the same since April 18th, when the protests against the Ortega-Murillo regime broke out. Thus, the conditions of Nicaragua prior to that date cannot be reinstated.” Ramirez notes that’s the case because now the Sandinista government “has the disfavor” of business people, the Catholic Church and the United States, a government with which it maintained normal relations.

“After April 18th, all these elements that make up the stability of power in Nicaragua, which form the consensus to be able to govern, are no longer there. A government that is isolated behind a wall of repression cannot give governability to the country,” warned Ramirez, who does not believe the clock can be turned back. “The time for an agreement whereby the government remains unscathed will not arrive. If they (Ortega and Murillo) cannot see that, they are totally wrong and that will lead them to disaster.”

Ramirez believes that the Army continues to be a “reserve forces” that could help offer a solution to the severe socio-political crisis. The writer is one of those who maintain that the military institution does have independence, regardless of the criticism that the military Chief of Staff sits at public events wrapped in the red and black flag (of the FSLN).

“The Army is a force that still has independence. Many people tell me ‘the Chief of Staff of the Army appears in the cameras surrounded by the Sandinista Front’s flags,’ but that is not an army setting. They are scenarios of the Olof Palme (convention center), where the presidency sets the stage. It is not crucial. I feel that at the time of a political solution we will see the Army playing a role with other institutional forces that will have to join together to confront this very serious crisis, the most serious one that has taken place in Nicaragua throughout all its history,” said Ramirez.

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