Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramirez to live in exile in Spain

FILE - In this Sept. 13, 2021 file photo, Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramirez attends a meeting at Cervantes Institute's headquarters in Madrid, Spain. Ramirez, who is under a criminal charge and an arrest warrant from the Daniel Ortega government, confirmed on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021 that he has decided to go into exile in Spain, a country that granted him citizenship three years ago. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez, File) (Manu Fernandez, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

MANAGUA – Writer and former Nicaraguan Vice President Sergio Ramírez announced Friday he will go live in Spain, after the government of President Daniel Ortega tried to arrest him and banned his latest book.

The 79-year-old writer served as vice president during Ortega’s first government from 1985 to 1990. But in the mid-1990s he distanced himself from Ortega, along with other intellectuals and former guerrillas.

Ramírez retired from politics in 1996, but continues to be an important voice in the country. In September, Ortega’s government issued an arrest warrant for him for “acts that foment and incite hatred and violence.”

Ramírez had initially said he intended to live in neighboring Costa Rica.

Ramírez said the government has seized copies of his latest novel, “Tongolele no sabía bailar,” and banned the book.

In June, Ramiréz said in an interview there was “zero possibility” of holding free elections in Nicaragua Nov. 7 and that opposition forces who participate would only be “legitimizing” Ortega’s re-election.

He said the 75-year-old Ortega had imposed a system of “terror” that prevents people from freely taking to the streets and that he will not tolerate any opposition electoral campaign.

“A lot of people are leaving the country in a massive way, like hasn’t happened since 2018 and there is a lot of fear among people,” Ramírez said. “Nobody knows if they’re going to be the next one (detained by police), nobody knows whose house is going to be raided.”

On Thursday, Nicaragua’s national police arrested two leaders of the country’s top private business association, just one day after a regional body called for the immediate release of political prisoners.

A police statement said Michael Healy Lacayo and Álvaro Vargas, president and vice president, respectively, of the Private Business Superior Council, face charges including money laundering, acts that diminish the country’s independence and inciting foreign interference among others.

The charges are similar to those lodged against more than three dozen people, including political and student leaders and seven potential challengers to Ortega in the Nov. 7 election. Those arrests began in May and all remain in detention.

The latest arrests came after a resounding vote Wednesday by the Organization of American States Permanent Council that called for the release of political prisoners in Nicaragua and expressed serious concern about the upcoming elections. Ortega appeared to double down on his strategy of leaving no other influential power standing.

Ortega has been ruling without interruption since 2007, after first coming to power following the ouster of dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979.

Ortega has maintained that mass protests against his government in 2018 were an attempted coup with foreign backing. At least 328 people were killed when the government cracked down on those protests.