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Nicaragua: Fifth opposition leader detained in the “night of the long knives in the tropics”

In less than a week and just months before a crucial election, Nicaraguan police arrested five prominent opposition leaders, according to official police statements.

Three opposition figures, Félix Maradiaga Blandón, Juan Sebastián Chamorro García and José Adan Aguerri were all arrested on Tuesday, while Arturo Cruz was arrested on Saturday. Cristiana Chamorro, another opposition politician, was placed under house arrest on Thursday.

Aguerri is a well-known businessman and former president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise, a national business federation.

The other four – Chamorro, Cruz, Maradiaga and Chamorro García – have all announced their intention to run against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega in the upcoming elections.

Ortega, a former leftist revolutionary whose Sandinista rebels overthrew Nicaraguan strongman Anastasio Somoza in the 1970s, is running for a fourth term on November 7.

The Ortega government has not hesitated in the past to crack down on the opposition. When anti-government protests erupted across the country in 2018, at least 322 people were killed, thousands injured and hundreds detained in just four months. At that time, UN human rights experts accused the government of human rights violations in its dealings with protesters.

Ortega said the UN report was “nothing more than an instrument of the politics of death, the politics of terror, the politics of lies, the politics of infamy.”

While reports on Tuesday evening of the detention of opposition leaders, former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla wrote on Twitter: “It is the night of the long knives in the tropics.”

On Wednesday, the United States imposed sanctions on senior Ortega regime officials, including his daughter and the president of the country’s central bank, for failing to implement electoral reform and for being complicit in ” this wave of oppression, “State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

The sanctions will fall on Camilla Ortega Murillo, the counselor and the daughter of Ortega; Leonardo Ovidio Reyes Ramirez, President of the Central Bank of Nicaragua; Julio Modesto Rodriguez Balladares, military general; and Edwin Ramon Castro Rivera, Member of the National Assembly of Nicaragua.

Charges against detainees

All three detainees on Tuesday were arrested, among other things, for allegedly acting “against independence, sovereignty and self-determination,” according to police statements.

Maradiaga, the first of three detainees on Tuesday, was attending a meeting at the Nicaraguan attorney general’s office when he, his driver and his personal lawyer were detained, according to a statement from the Maradiaga office.

Maradiaga “has rejected the false charges against him and demands his immediate release,” his office added in a statement posted on Twitter hours after his arrest.

Nicaragua: Fifth opposition leader detained in the “night of the long knives in the tropics”

Chamorro García and Aguerri were arrested later on Tuesday. CNN was unable to reach the legal teams of Aguerri and Chamorro García for a response.

The charges brought by the police against Maradiaga, Chamorro García and Adan Aguerri are similar to those facing Cruz. He was arrested for having committed “acts which threaten national sovereignty”, according to the national police and the Nicaraguan public prosecutor.

According to a statement posted on Cruz’s Twitter account, the former diplomat arrived in Nicaragua on a plane from the United States on Saturday morning and was detained at Augusto Cesar Sandino Airport in Managua.

Cruz’s party, the Citizens for Freedom Alliance, called for his release in a statement. “We demand the speedy release of Arturo Cruz and respect for his physical integrity and his constitutional rights,” said the opposition party.

Nicaragua: Fifth opposition leader detained in the “night of the long knives in the tropics”

“He is being held incommunicado and we do not know where he is”, we read in a tweet from Cruz’s account.

Cristiana Chamorro, meanwhile, has been charged with money laundering and mismanagement of the Violeta Barrios Foundation, a non-profit organization she chaired, according to the Nicaraguan prosecution.

The Violeta Barrios Foundation has been closed since February due to its violation of the Law on the Regulation of Foreign Agents which was enacted in October 2020. The prosecutor’s office asked the judicial authority to impose precautionary measures on Chamorro, including travel restrictions and a ban on running in public. office, he said in a statement.

The arrests sparked outrage from human rights organizations and foreign leaders. The US State Department on Friday called on the Nicaraguan government “to immediately release opposition leader Cristiana Chamorro and her two colleagues”, calling their detention “on false charges” as well as a clear attempt to thwart free elections and fair. “

State Department spokesman Ned Price said “the current conditions of repression and exclusion are incompatible with credible elections.”

Nicaragua: Fifth opposition leader detained in the “night of the long knives in the tropics”

On Tuesday, US State Department Acting Assistant Secretary of the Western Hemisphere Affairs Office Julie Chung said the detentions called for “an urgent international response.”

“The Ortega regime is responsible for the well-being of the detainees. They must be released immediately,” Chung tweeted.

Florida Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar also criticized the decision and warned that the Ortega regime “will face the full brunt of economic sanctions if free and democratic elections with international observers do not take place. “.

The Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation has denounced the detentions, group president and former Nicaraguan actress Bianca Jagger said in a statement on Twitter. She called Ortega “the criminal dictator”.

Speaking to CNN Espanol on Thursday, José Miguel Vivanco, director of the Americas division of Human Rights Watch, called on the international community to do more in light of Chamorro’s arrest.

CNN’s Gerardo Lemos and Stefano Pozzebon in Bogota, Natalie Gallon in Mexico City and Marlon Sorto, Kiarinna Parisi, Abel Alvarado and Philip Wang in Atlanta contributed reporting. Jenny Hansler, Kylie Atwood and Nicole Gaouette contributed reporting from Washington, DC.


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