A farewell letter from Nicaragua to Compañero Ramsey Clark

Dearest Ramsey,

It tickles me to see how people around the world feel entitled to claim a little piece of you as their own, but then it is to be expected. You travelled the globe to places under siege, to bear witness, seek justice, and promote the rule of law.

When an entire people were under U.S. assault, feeling vulnerable or abandoned, you brought solidarity, legal counsel, and compassion.

So, Ramsey, let me remind you of just some of the reasons why we Nicaraguans feel entitled to call you one of our own, “a son of Sandino,” our brother, our friend.

You visited Nicaragua in the early days just after what one friend described as “the harshest month of the planting season,” when the wounds of war were still fresh and the promise of the future seemed boundless.

Those were the first years of the Revolution and Daniel opened our country´s doors.  It wasn’t long before you met Tomás Borge and he asked you… ”What would you like to do?”  Without batting an eyelash, you responded… “Well, I would like to visit the prison.” Within 20 minutes both of you were inside a vehicle en route to the very prison where Tomás himself had been held by Somoza.

You had a habit of visiting prisons. It was your barometer for measuring the general health of a society.

And what you saw impressed you. Upon opening the main gate, at a time when inmates were still maintaining military discipline, dozens of former National Guardsmen came up to the window to greet Nicaragua´s Minister of the Interior.

That afternoon the former U.S. attorney general and the new Nicaraguan minister spent time talking with different prisoners. Tomás reiterated his commitment to avenge their crimes by guaranteeing education for their children, healthcare, and security. You discovered shared ideals: an abhorrence of the death penalty, the need for rehabilitation rather than punishment, and to guarantee humane treatment and respect for the human rights of all, even for—especially for—the unpopular, the undesirables and criminals.

That afternoon marked the beginning of a deep friendship, one that later crossed generations. In late 2012, you accompanied Michelle Borge on a visit to the new monument erected to her father in the Central Park of the Plaza de la Revolución, a place of high honor next to Comandante Carlos Fonseca Amador.  The caricature, the one Tomás gave you several years ago, was hanging in your living room the evening you left us.

That was just the beginning. You cultivated many other friendships in Nicaragua throughout the 80’s and afterwards, with “regular folk,” grassroots community organizers, as well as notables such as Nora Astorga, Comandante Omar Cabezas, and Foreign Minister Fr. Miguel d’Escoto.

I was privy to glimpses of you during that period, occasionally accompanying staffers on subsequent prison visits in Nicaragua, or meeting you in the home of my uncle, Padre Miguel.

My uncle spoke fondly of the privilege of both knowing and collaborating with you for more than 40 years. Your collaboration took on multiple forms and spanned an array of different causes, but all against the backdrop of U.S. efforts to maintain its imperial hegemony.

You were the one Padre Miguel first approached to discuss Nicaragua´s decision to take the United States to court. You discussed the invasion of Grenada and the U.S. government’s total disdain of international law. You felt a shared urgency to take a firm stance to promote the primacy of the rule of law in relations between States. From that moment forward you served as his personal, albeit informal, advisor on international law.

Your ongoing collaboration included international efforts to prevent and oppose the first Gulf War. Accompanied by Miguel d’Escoto (Nicaragua), Ben Bella (Algeria), Tony Benn (UK), and Karmenu Bonnici (Malta), you led the Coalition to oppose the Gulf War and the Commission on the Impact of the criminal and illegal U.S.-led sanctions against the people of Iraq—that killed more than 1.5 million people—and marked only the beginning of the U.S. war against that country.

When Daniel won the presidential elections of 2006, you were here for his inauguration, together with old friends from Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, El Salvador, Panama, as well as Ghana, Zambia and elsewhere.

During Padre Miguel´s 2008-2009 tenure as President of the UN General Assembly, you and your wife Georgia read through and commented on different drafts of his opening address. You served as Miguel’s key Senior Advisor on international law, providing valuable insights into the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the so-called “Responsibility to Protect”—the new jargon to mask to the old practice of wars of aggression—and the sorely needed democratization of the United Nations.

Not only did you review and provide counsel during the drafting of Miguel´s ambitious Proposal for Reinventing the United Nations, you actually wrote the Prologue and even looped your son Thomas into the process, getting him to comment on the legal aspects relating to the creation of an International Tribunal on Climate Justice and Environmental Protection and the codification of international environmental law.

When Daniel sent Padre Miguel to the UN in an attempt to fend off the impending U.S.-NATO aggression against Libya, you met and strategized on how to bring ethics and the rule of law into the equation.  And you and Padre Miguel wrote and called each other to provide insight and moral support for your respective individual efforts at citizen diplomacy in Vietnam, Syria, Iran, and Iraq.

Over four decades you never stopped visiting Nicaragua. In 2012 you were awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Humanities by the UNAN-Managua in recognition of your life of service to the most vulnerable and in defense of Human Rights around the world. Your relationship with the students was not limited to public presentations in large auditoriums, but also included small group dialogues in the home of Father Miguel.

During your final visit to Nicaragua in 2014, you were accompanied by your granddaughter Taylor, daughter-in-law Cheryl, and other family. It was a joyous and healing encounter of love and admiration between our two families. Highlights included visiting potters in San Juan de Oriente, long leisurely conversations and exploration in Selva Negra, and, as always, a visit to Los Pipitos. I remember our sheer delight as we watched a beautiful little girl with her braids and folklore costume dance “El Solar de Monimbó.”  How she beamed when we applauded.  How we beamed back basking in her success. On our last night, we celebrated mass in the rancho at Padre Miguel’s to remember your son Tom and our friend Barbara, both of whom had passed away the previous year. The bonds forged during that visit continue.

Ramsey, I feel privileged to have seen you in your New York apartment on several occasions since, including during the blizzard of 2018 when we discussed the civil rights movement, watched a documentary on Vincent Van Gogh, and ate hot dogs and ice cream.

You, Ramsey, are a part of us and we are all the better for it.

Vaya con Dios mi amigo.


Managua, April 12, 2021

Sofia M. Clark is a political scientist and former Nicaraguan diplomat. She is part of the collective of the Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann Center for Development Studies at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in Managua. She served as deputy Chief of Staff to Fr. Miguel during his tenure as president of the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly (2008-2009).