Friday, February 3

Business leaders arrested in Nicaragua two weeks before the elections


Updated

There are already 39 people arrested in the last four months, including seven presidential hopefuls, political and social leaders, businessmen and journalists.

Nicaraguan business leader
Nicaraguan business leader Michael Healy arrested.REUTERS
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The two top leaders of the Nicaraguan business union were arrested, increasing to almost 40 the list of arrested opponents, two weeks before the elections in which President Daniel Ortega seeks his fourth consecutive term, without any weight rival.

The National Police informed, in a statement, that it detained the president and vice president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), Michael Healy and lvaro Vargas, respectively, who “are being investigated for the crime of money, property and assets laundering.”

Also for “performing acts that undermine independence, sovereignty and self-determination, incite foreign interference in internal affairs,ask for military interventions, organize with financing from foreign powers to carry out acts of terrorism, “he added.

A court of justice issued 90 days of preventive detention for both businessmen, while the investigations are being carried out, the Public Ministry said in a statement.

“These actions that violate the fundamental rights established in the Nicaraguan Political Constitution must cease immediately,” COSEP reacted on Twitter, which considered the arrests a “direct attack” against the business union.

With Healy and Vargas they add 39 the people detained in the last four months, including seven presidential hopefuls, political and social leaders, businessmen and journalists. They are accused of “treason”, “terrorism”, “money laundering” and others.

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Healy was arrested shortly after going to the offices of the Public Ministry (prosecutor), where he was summoned, according to what he told reporters, for an “interview” that did not take place and was to be rescheduled.

Journalists who were waiting for him outside the prosecutor’s office asked him if he was afraid of being arrested, to which he replied “necessarily not.” But upon boarding his vehicle, he was followed on two motorcycles by armed policemen.

The sociologist and economist Oscar Ren Vargas considered that the government is not leaving “an opportunity for a negotiated solution” to the crisis in the country.

Claim of release

Healy has held the highest business position in the country since September 2020, replacing Jos Aguerri, arrested since last July for “conspiracy to undermine the sovereign”, according to the prosecution.

Healy, sugar entrepreneur, and Vargas, rancher, were members of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, government counterpart in a failed dialogue seeking a way out of the three-year political crisis, triggered by anti-government protests.

The arrests of Healy and Vargas occur one day after the Organization of American States (OAS) demand the “immediate release” of all detained opponents, during a session in Washington on the situation in Nicaragua.

These two businessmen are joined by the banker Luis Rivas, the manager and one of the owners of the opposition newspaper La Prensa, Juan Lorenzo Holman, detained in recent months.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights condemns on its Twitter account “the persecution” of the two businessmen, an act that it describes as “incompatible” with international standards of human rights.

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The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh) described the arrests of the two businessmen as “arbitrary” and demanded respect for their integrity.

Opposition groups, such as the Civic Alliance and Unidad Azul y Blanco, also condemned the arrests and demanded the release of detainees.

The private sectors of Guatemala and El Salvador expressed solidarity with the Nicaraguan business union.

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Before the political crisis broke out in 2018, triggered by protests against a social reform that led to a demand to resign from Ortega, the businessmen and the government had a so-called “dialogue and consensus” alliance.

Ortega, who resents the end of coexistence with the business sector, recently stated that “this type of understanding between the rich and the poor has never occurred” in Nicaragua.

For a decade, the private sector supported political and economic reforms promoted by the Ortega government, who now he accuses them of getting rich and to support “terrorism”.

That rupture came in part because the business union disagreed with the social security reforms and withdrew its support for the government amid the repression of the 2018 protests that left more than 300 dead, hundreds incarcerated and more than 100,000 exiles.

Ortega, 75 years old and in power since 2007, assures that these demonstrations were an attempted coup, supported by the United States.

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