Writer and former Nicaraguan vice president Sergio Ramirez affirmed in an interview with EFE that conditions for holding “fair and transparent” elections in 2021 don’t exist in his country, where the protests and repression have left hundreds of deaths in nearly two years according to human rights organizations.
Ramirez was in Cartagena, Colombia, to participate in the Hay Festival, where he presented a book on poet Ruben Dario’s gastronomic fanaticism. Ramirez expressed his trust that, despite the difficult political situation, the Nicaraguan opposition could organize itself, “into one unique political force, capable of confronting Daniel Ortega.”
On January 17, the principal movements opposed to President Daniel Ortega announced the creation of a National Coalition as an alternative to the government system currently in place. It was not specified, however, if this was to become a political party with a view towards the 2021 elections that opposition figures are hoping to move up.
Sergio Ramirez explained that the citizens are in the streets because they desire “a new direction” for Nicaragua, but he lamented the fact that the proposed deadline for moving up the elections may be missed and that possibility would be lost. The country is already facing a “calendar that defines elections for next year,” he argued.
Daniel Ortega under no pressure
“So, the demand, or the question, is: Will there be free, fair, transparent and democratic elections in Nicaragua?” noted the recipient of the Cervantes Prize in 2017. He then answered his own question: “I don’t believe things are moving in the direction of obtaining” those conditions.
The presidential, legislative and local elections are scheduled for 2021, he recalled.
“I don’t feel that Ortega is under any pressure to open this electoral opportunity, as he should be. This places us before a new problem, because if the coming year in Nicaragua brings the opening of elections with no guarantees, without the possibility of a transparent, well counted vote, and without international observation, well then, we’re just going to continue the same way,” he asserted.
In that case, Ortega would be reelected and “there’d be no change, the discontent would continue out there and the situation would continue to worsen”, despite the fact that – in his opinion – the only thing that interests Nicaraguans is for there to be a “democratic change”.
Amid this uncertainty, “the all-inclusive coalition of all the opposing forces is going to happen,” to confront Ortega, he declared.
“I know it’s a complex road, because there’s a lot of diversity, ways of thinking and, as in all parts of the world, there are different ideological positions.”
Sergio Ramirez said the problem isn’t whether there will be a united and strong opposition, but whether “these elections will be trustworthy, if through elections we can emerge from the tunnel we’re in.”
Army loyal to Ortega
Ramirez regretted the 328 deaths left by the protests that began in April 2018, according to data from the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (CIDH), while Nicaragua’s Permanent Commission for Human Rights raises that number to 684. Meanwhile, the executive branch only recognizes 200 and insists that these stemmed from an attempt at a coup d’etat.
According to the report of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts, a body under the auspices of the CIDH, the Ortega government is the main entity responsible for the violence; they also attributed crimes against humanity to the Ortega regime.
“You know how the coup d’etat’s in Latin America happen: there’s never been one without the intervention of the Army. (In this case) the Army has remained loyal to Ortega instead,” the writer indicated to EFE, making it clear that in Nicaragua there hasn’t been any attempt at a coup of any kind, but merely protests from fed-up citizens.
He added that what happened in the country was that “thousands of kids” went out on the streets, and the events were “a legitimate protest in which there were many deaths, much blood, many imprisoned.”
“There was a disruption to the country’s economic and social life, but the claim of a coup d’etat is a myth that is easily dispelled,” declared the former vice president (1984–1990) Cartegena, Colombia.