Cardenal, An open letter to Pepe Mujica

Ernesto Cardenal, at a poetry reading in Germany. Wikimedia photo.

An urgent letter from Nicaragua

by Ernesto Cardenal, translated by Eric Jackson

The world should know and take a stand about what is happening in Nicaragua: a true crisis of human rights and state terrorism.

Recognizing that you are a defender of human rights and of the struggle for dignity, a source of inspiration for all of Latin America, the youth and the people who fight in the streets of Nicaragua need you to add your voice to our cause, which is worthy and just.

Since April of 2018, Nicaraguan youth have taken to the streets to demand democracy and freedom. They have fulfilled the prophecy of one of the main architects of the national crusade of literacy in Nicaragua, Father Fernando Cardenal, who never tired of assuring that this would happen. Unfortunately, the impetus and determination of the youth were met with the most violent government repression that this country has seen in its history.

On April 19, two months ago, the government of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo claimed the life of the first of more than 180 Nicaraguans, mostly young people and even children. There are more than 1,500 injured, many missing and many political prisoners. These numbers increase every day that goes by with Ortega in power.

On Saturday, June 16, an entire family was burned to death in a fire set by the regime’s death squads, a reprisal for not permitting snipers to enter their house to kill those protesting in the streets from there.

In spite of the repression, the citizen mobilization has remained firm, forcing Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo to sit in a national dialogue with interlocutors other than big business. For the first time in 11 years, they had to sit with university students, the farmers’ movement and civil society.

The Ortega regime’s strategy has been to stall the dialogue in order to unleash its reign of terror on the streets. It is still uncertain whether the national dialogue will be able to respond to the popular demands that they leave power immediately and that there be justice.

Popular pressure also allowed for a working visit by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), whose preliminary report coincides with Amnesty International’s report on the serious human rights violations that have occurred in Nicaragua at the hands of the Ortega regime. Both agencies managed to document the excessive use of force and violence by state security forces and armed para-police shock troops, including the snipers who have fired deadly shots at scores of victims, including the journalist Ángel Gahona and several children.

Ortega and Murillo can not continue to find legitimacy in the movements of the left that they have betrayed by their unscrupulous acts. The heroes and martyrs of the Sandinista revolution do not deserve to have their memory stained by the genocidal acts of a dictator who betrayed them. The victims of Ortega and Murillo deserve justice.


Ernesto Cardenal, a former Catholic priest and a poet, is a liberation theologian and the founder of the primitivist art community in the Solentiname Islands, where he lived for more than decade until it was destroyed by the forces of the Somoza dictatorship. He served as Nicaragua’s minister of culture in the first Sandinista government from 1979 to 1987. He is a member of the advisory board of TeleSUR.


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