Nicaragua: Crackdown on Ortega’s Potential Challengers Continues | Elections News

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega faces growing international criticism after the arrest of four potential presidential candidates over the past week, prompting United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to demand their release on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Juan Sebastian Chamorro Garcia was the last opposition leader to be arrested, a few hours later Felix Maradiaga was detained.

Chamorro Garcia, the cousin of another detained presidential candidate Christian Chamorro – considered the favorite to beat Ortega in a November vote – was arrested Tuesday on charges of “inciting foreign interference in internal affairs”.

He is also accused of having used “funding from foreign powers” to plan “to carry out terrorist acts”, according to a police statement.

Four opposition political leaders have been detained since last week in Nicaragua, sparking growing criticism that Ortega is becoming increasingly authoritarian and seeking to prevent his opponents from running in the next election.

A spokesperson for Guterres told reporters on Wednesday that the UN secretary-general called on the Nicaraguan authorities to fully respect their international human rights obligations and release political leaders.

“These developments can seriously undermine public confidence in the democratic process ahead of the general elections in November,” said Stéphane Dujarric.

Luis Almagro, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, also asked on Twitter for the release of Chamorro Garcia “and all the other political prisoners in #Nicaragua”.

He added: “The harassment and oppression of the dictatorship of… Daniel Ortega must end. Nicaragua deserves to be free and democratic.

Tuesday night crackdown

The crackdown began a week ago when Cristiana Chamorro, a journalist not affiliated with a political party, was placed under house arrest on allegations of money laundering, widely regarded as fabricated.

Chamorro’s mother, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, defeated Ortega in the 1990 presidential elections.

Then, on Saturday, Arturo Cruz, 67, was ordered continued pre-trial detention as prosecutors investigate allegations of “provocation … and conspiracy to undermine national integrity.”

Cruz announced his presidential candidacy two months ago with the conservative Citizen Alliance for Freedom.

Authorities also arrested well-known businessman Jose Aguerri and human rights activist Violeta Granera on charges similar to those against Maradiaga and Chamorro Garcia on Tuesday evening, police said.

Former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla tweeted that “it’s a night of the long knives, tropical version.”

Maradiaga is a candidate for a non-parliamentary opposition group UNAB which has supported the protests against Ortega that have left 328 people dead and thousands in exile since 2018, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

Chamorro Garcia and Aguerri, meanwhile, are members of the ACJD alliance who are negotiating with the government to end the protests.

“It has become clear, even in recent days, that under President Ortega, Nicaragua is becoming an international outcast, moving further and further away from democracy,” the department spokesman said. of US State Ned Price at a press conference.

American sanctions

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the United States announced sanctions against four Nicaraguan officials who support Ortega, including the president’s daughter, accusing them of undermining democracy and violating human rights.

“President Ortega’s actions are harming Nicaraguans and driving the country deeper into tyranny,” said Andrea Gacki, director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

“The United States will continue to expose officials who continue to ignore the will of its citizens. “

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, right, and his family attend the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution [File: Inti Ocon/AFP]

Ortega spent a decade in power after leading the rebels that overthrew Anastasio Somoza in 1979. He returned to power in 2007, winning re-election in 2011 and 2016, but his recent reign has been marked by widespread protests.

Now aged 75, he is accused by the opposition and NGOs of rising authoritarianism and brutal repression of demonstrations. He is expected to run in the November election, although he has not said so.

The European Union and the United States maintain sanctions against Ortega and his government.

Ortega’s wife and vice-president, Rosaria Murillo, said on Tuesday that “justice arrives late, but it comes”, as she protests against “this band of thieves, not only thieves but also terrorists, criminals ”.

Last month, Nicaragua’s legislature appointed a majority of ruling party-aligned magistrates to the electoral body that will oversee the election.

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