16 February 2017 – On 12 Febuary 2017, a Nicaraguan court resumed a legal case aganist the poet and priest Ernesto Cardenal. He was notified last week via a judicial edit that was published in the state newspaper that he must pay $ 800, 000 USD as “damages” in relation to a dispute related to land located on Solentimane Island, where the poet founded a community of artists and created his famous work The Gospel of Solentiname. 92-year-old Cardenal has described this case as “political persecution”. Ernesto Cardenal split with President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista party in the 1990s, after accusing Ortega of monopolizing power. Before that, Cardenal had served as a leading figure of the leftist Sandinista movement and served as Minister of Culture. PEN International joins PEN Nicaragua and calls for all charges against Cardenal to be dropped immediately and unconditionally.
PEN International and the Nicaraguan PEN Center stand in solidarity with the poet and writer Ernesto Cardinal, whose extraordinary body of work is respected across the world, garnering recognition and prestigious awards.
During the years of struggle against the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua, Ernesto Cardenal left his life in the community of Solentiname to join the fight against oppression. This led to the destruction of that community by the Somoza Guard and the death of many who had joined the revolution as anti-Somoza guerrilla forces.
Upon the overthrow of the regime, Ernesto Cardenal served the Nicaraguan people as Minister of Culture and has dedicated his life to writing and opposing oppression in all forms.
We believe that it is his courageous, forthright criticism of the situation in Nicaragua under the government of Daniel Ortega which has led to this persecution. Cardenal has been repeatedly held hostage to a trial that we believe is politically motivated. These legal procedures were considered finished in 2010, with a judgment which cleared Ernesto Cardenal of all charges.
However, on 12 February 2017, through the official government newspaper La Gaceta, the case has been re-opened, only this time with a case against the poet Cardenal is seeking the exorbitant sum of 17 million cordobas in damages.
PEN International and PEN Nicaragua call on the Nicaraguan authorities to cease its harassment of poet Ernesto Cardenal immediately, to withdraw this action and to respect and protect the fundamental right to freedom of expression, which is a cornerstone of any free society.