Repression in Nicaragua under Sandinistas


Artists and intellectuals have accused Nicaragua's Sandinista government of betraying its revolutionary heritage by waging a vendetta against a revered poet.

Ernesto Cardenal, an 83-year-old cultural figurehead, faces jail after clashing with President Daniel Ortega, the Sandinista leader who was once a darling of the left.

More than 60 Latin American writers and cultural luminaries, including many who used to champion the Sandinistas, denounced the move as illegal and another sign that the revolution had curdled.

In a joint letter they said Cardenal, a former culture minister and Catholic priest who helped popularise the movement in the 1980s, was the most recent victim of systematic persecution in the impoverished Central American country.

"It is being directed against all who raise their voices to protest the lack of transparency, the authoritarian style, the unscrupulous behaviour and the lack of ethics that Daniel Ortega has shown since his return to power."

Last month a Sandinista-appointed judge revived a three-year-old case and fined the poet $1,000 for insulting a German man, Inmanuel Zerger, in a property dispute. The charge had been dismissed in 2005 and there was no explanation for its revival.

Cardenal refused to pay, calling the sentence unjust and illegal, and said he would go to jail if necessary.

There was widespread belief that the prosecution was revenge for the poet's outspoken criticism of Ortega as a "thief" who runs a "monarchy made up of a few families in alliance with the old Somoza interests".


One of the fundamental weaknesses of authoritarian socialism as practiced by Ortega is the inability to tolerate criticism.

It is as if they fear the words of the critic will cause their government to fall.

It is possible that words could topple a weak, corrupt government, but suppression of the words can't hide the facts when it comes to an incompetent administration backed up by some of the worlds nuttiest leaders in places like Venezuela and Iran. In both those countries they have run their economy into the ditch with socialism and Nicaragua does not have the benefit of windfall oil profits to bail it out.


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