Rising state persecution of writers
Daniel Ortega, president of Nicaragua from 1985 to 1990 following the Sandinista revolution, returned to power in November 2006 amid widespread allegations of election rigging. Although the press is still free, with some privately owned media very vocal in their criticism of the government, there are concerns that the Ortega regime is becoming increasingly authoritarian and repressive of dissent.

NICARAGUA – Ernesto Cardenal (AFP)In particular, Ortega is accused of persecuting revolutionary figures turned critics, such as the renowned poet and priest Ernesto Cardenal, who served as culture minister under Ortega’s first government. On 22 August 2008, Cardenal (82) was found guilty of insulting a German businessman in a property dispute, and was fined around US$1,025. Cardenal said the case was illegal and amounted to political persecution: he had been acquitted of the same charges in 2005 and the cut-off date for appealing or revoking the ruling was long past. The poet refused to pay the fine and his bank accounts were frozen. The sentence was denounced by numerous writers and intellectuals worldwide, including Ariel Dorfman and Eduardo Galeano.

In September 2008, two well known journalists, Carlos Fernando Chamorro Barrios and Sofía Montenegro came under investigation for alleged embezzlement and money laundering for the non governmental organisations (NGOs) they head. This is part of a wider investigation into 17 national NGOs launched by the Ministry of the Interior, which alleges that the organisations have been illegally funnelling funds from foreign governments to other NGOs. Both Chamorro and Montenegro were questioned and their offices raided in October. As of January 2009, official charges were yet to be brought. Both journalists are former members of the Sandinista movement and Chamorro in particular is known as a harsh critic of the Ortega administration, having conducted a number of investigations into official corruption. It is feared that the investigation against him may also be politically motivated.

NICARAGUA – Sergio Ramirez (redcultura.com)Accusations of official censorship came in late 2008 when the government reportedly barred Sergio Ramírez, author and former Vice President under the first Sandinista administration, from writing the prologue to a proposed anthology of the work of Nicaraguan poet Carlos Martínez Rivas (1924-1998). As a result the collection was dropped by the publishers, the Spanish newspaper El País. The veto was criticized by numerous writers such as Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes and Fernando Savater.

For information on past Nicaraguan cases, click here.