Ernesto Cardenal © Katharina Ebel (KNA)
For years the Nicaraguan liberation theologian Ernesto Cardenal has been at loggerheads with his former companions. Now the poet is considering going into exile.
At least the poet and liberation theologian Ernesto Cardenal (92) can still rely on his fellow writers: Earlier this week, the international writers' association PEN threw its weight behind the Nicaraguan poet, who, according to its own reading, has once again become a target of the ruling Sandinistas. One believes in his courageous, direct and critical positions on the situation in Nicaragua under the government of Daniel Ortega. The latter has faced persecution and interference since 2007, according to a PEN letter from which Latin American media quote.
A little later, the Nicaraguan writer Gioconda Belli added: "I would like to send Ernesto Cardenal a hug. He is a great poet, an essential poet, who deserves nothing more than love."
The Chilean writer Isabelle Allende also showed solidarity with Cardenal. She called it deplorable that the situation in Nicaragua frightens Cardenal, just as it frightens many other people. "If Ernesto Cardenal feels persecuted, it's better if he leaves. You can neither live nor work, much less write poetry, if you feel persecuted," Allende told Deutsche Welle. This is what happened to her in Chile during the dictatorship. "That is why I did not stay there, but went to Venezuela."
750.000 Euro fine
Whether the expressions of solidarity actually help is another matter. Cardinal feels "politically persecuted. According to media reports, Nicaragua's judiciary imposed on him a fine equivalent to 750.000 euros. The background is said to be a years-long dispute over land on the Solentiname archipelago, where Cardenal once established an Original Christian commune. Now the indignant poet is looking into the possibility of seeking political asylum in Germany, Chile or Spain, people close to him said.
The judicial decision was enforced by an old acquaintance of the presidential couple Daniel Ortega/Rosario Murillo, who have shared not only table and bed but also the presidency and vice-presidency since the disputed ballot in November. Even before the elections, Ortega/Murillo simply had a most promising opposition candidate removed from the race with the help of the judiciary. Now lawyer Ramon Rojas is successfully litigating against Cardenal and on behalf of the plaintiffs, Arcia Mayorga and her German husband Immanuel Zerger.
Rojas already defended Ortega against allegations of abuse by Zoilamerica Narvaez. Ortega accused his wife's daughter of sexually abusing her since she was eleven years old. Rosario Murillo stood up to her and defended the husband. In the end, Ortega's stepdaughter had nothing left to do but criticize impunity in Nicaragua.
Award-winning and criticized
Cardenal, meanwhile, is considered one of Latin America's most colorful figures. He calls himself "Sandinista, Marxist and Christian". Pope John Paul II. banned him from serving as a priest in 1985 because he held the post of Minister of Culture in the revolutionary government after the fall of the Somoza dictatorship. At that time Ortega and Cardenal were still arguing side by side. For his literary work, the poet received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 1980 and the Spanish Queen Sofia Prize for Ibero-American Literature in 2012. Critics call him the "founder of Latin American mystical literature" or "one of the most original Christian mystics of the 20th century. Century".
On 4. March Cardenal is awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Wuppertal. The Faculty of Humanities and Cultural Studies honored his contribution to world literature and his commitment to cultural exchange between Nicaragua and Germany, the university recently announced. Surely the German public will then also learn directly from the mouth of Cardenal whether he is actually drawn to exile in Germany.