Nicaraguan prosecutors have ordered the arrest of an award-winning novelist who served as vice president under President Daniel Ortega, making him the latest perceived opponent of the left-wing government to be charged amid an ongoing crackdown as elections near.
Sergio Ramirez, who in 2017 won the Premio Cervantes, the most prestigious literary award in the Spanish-speaking world, is accused of “incitement of hate” and “conspiracy” – charges that have been used several times in the arrests of political opponents and candidates set to run against Ortega in November’s election.
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Seventy-eight-year-old Ramirez had been an official in the Sandinista government that came to power in 1979 and was vice president under Ortega during his first term from 1985 to 1990.
He fell out with Ortega’s Sandinista National Liberation Front in 1995 and retired from politics soon after, but remained a prominent voice in the country.
Ramirez left Nicaragua in June.
The Nicaraguan government has already accused some 34 political opponents, including seven presidential candidates, of plotting against the state, using a law that was approved by parliament in December.
The crackdown has prompted EU and US sanctions and visa restrictions on Nicaraguan officials, with Washington saying the upcoming polls have lost “all credibility”.
Among the allegations, Ramirez is accused of receiving money from the Violeta Barrios Chamorro Foundation, which is accused of money laundering and undermining national sovereignty.
With only two months to go until the presidential election in November, Nicaraguan judicial authorities have begun proceedings against at least 20 political opponents, including five presidential candidates.
Candidate Cristiana Chamorro, president of the Chamorro Foundation, which is named for her mother, is among those being prosecuted.
The elder Chamorro beat Ortega in the 1990 presidential election before 75-year-old Ortega won a second term in 2007.
Before he left the country, Ramirez was called as a witness by prosecutors in the case against the Chamorro Foundation.
Prosecutors also accuse Ramirez of receiving money from the Luisa Mercado Foundation, a cultural organisation the prosecutor’s office has accused of trying to “destabilise” the country.
Author of the celebrated novel Divine Punishment, Ramirez was also the winner of the Alfaguara Prize in 1998 for Margarita, How Beautiful the Sea.