Q & A
"As much injustice now as under Somoza"
By Néfer Muñoz
The lack of education prevents us from thinking about the environment as a crucial issue for survival, says Nicaraguan writer and former vice-president Sergio Ramírez. In a conversation with Tierramérica, he stated that a novelist can serve as "a witness of the era".
SAN JOSE, (Tierramérica).- Nicaraguan author Sergio Ramírez Mercado is currently promoting his new book "Sombras nada más" (shadows nothing more), a novel set in his own despairing country in the early years of the Sandinista Revolution.
It is a period and a process that he knows well. Ramírez, 60, was a member of the Sandinista government junta that took power after overthrowing dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979. He served as vice-president and later as Sandinista party leader in Congress until he broke away from the leftist party in 1994.
His long journey through politics left him with many frustrations, which he revealed in his book "Adiós Muchachos" (1999).
"The Sandinista dream was relegated to history," says Ramírez, author of around 30 books. And he believes, without hesitation, that Nicaraguan society continues to be as unjust as it was in the Somoza era, and that the lack of development, the food crisis, lack of environmental awareness, corruption and foreign exploitation extends through all of Central America.
As he prepared for his book promotion tour in Colombia, Venezuela and Costa Rica, Ramírez spoke in an exclusive interview with Tierramérica.
Q: Is revolutionary theory still valid in Latin America?
A: What is valid is democratic revolutionary thought, in which there are free elections by citizens and within the institutional framework.
Q: Who is to blame for the misery the region suffers?
A: Underdevelopment, corruption, authoritarian vices and foreign exploitation.
Q: What is the environmental problem that most worries you?
A: The scant awareness that exists, which prevents us from seeing that the environment is part of our own survival.
Q: What would you do to fight the famine that is affecting Central America?
A: In this case I have to use a worn-out phrase: promote development. Improving our economic reality and establishing a food policy to move beyond the shame of being a country incapable of providing enough food for its own citizens.
Q: What single thing would you do to defend indigenous rights?
A: Give the communities the authority to govern themselves, respecting their communal approach to property, their ways of being.
Q: What phrase would you put on the grave of the Somoza family? (The Somozas ruled Nicaragua with an iron fist for decades, until 1979.)
A: "Soon Forgotten"
Q: Where did the Sandinista dream end up?
A: Relegated to history.
Q: What did you find most frustrating as a politician?
A: The inability to make the changes for which I had fought against Somoza, impotence in the attempt to make Nicaraguan society less unjust. Today it is just as unequal as it was then. But as the Popol Vuh (the sacred book of the Mayas) says: "The darker the sky, the sooner the dawn will arrive." That hope consoles me.
Q: If you were a scientist and could clone someone, which Latin American would you choose?
A: For setting the example of ethics, Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero and Monsignor Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga. For their civic example, Juan José Arévalo, Omar Torrijos and Pepe Figueres.
Q: Does literature help in the development of peoples, of communities?
A: Yes, it helps. It creates sensitivity and raises awareness. I would not be so vain to think that a novelist transforms the world, but he can be a witness to his era.
To learn more about Ramírez, connect yourself to: www.sergioramirez.org.ni
* Néfer Muñoz is an IPS correspondent.