Nicaragua orders arrest of prominent writer

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Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramirez is seen in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2019 (AFP/JUAN MABROMATA)
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Nicaraguan prosecutors on Wednesday ordered the arrest of an award-winning novelist who used to be an aide to President Daniel Ortega, making him the latest perceived opponent to run afoul of the leftist government as elections draw near.

Sergio Ramirez, who in 2017 won the Premio Cervantes, the most prestigious literary award in the Spanish-speaking world, is accused of "incitement of hate" and "conspiracy" -- charges that have already been used several times in the arrests of candidates set to run against Ortega in November's election.

Ramirez is also accused of receiving money from the Violeta Barrios Chamorro Foundation, which is accused of money laundering and undermining national sovereignty.

Ramirez, who fell out with Ortega's Sandinista National Liberation Front in 1995, was notified of the charges on Tuesday.

He had left the country in June after appearing as a witness in the case against the Chamorro foundation.

Ramirez is also accused of receiving money from the Luisa Mercado Foundation, a cultural organization that the prosecutor's office has accused of trying to "destabilize" the country.

The 78-year-old Ramirez had been an official in the Sandinista government that came to power in 1979 and was vice president under Ortega during his first term from 1985 to 1990.

The Nicaraguan government has already accused some 34 political opponents, including seven presidential candidates, of plotting against the state in a law that was approved by parliament in December.

Author of the celebrated novel "Divine Punishment," Ramirez was also the winner of the Alfaguara Prize in 1998 for "Margarita, How Beautiful the Sea."

With only two months to go until the presidential election in November, Nicaraguan judicial authorities have begun proceedings against 20 of those political opponents, including five presidential candidates, including Cristiana Chamorro, president of the Chamorro foundation, which is named for her mother.

The elder Chamorro beat Ortega in the 1990 presidential election before 75-year-old Ortega won a second term in 2007.

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