Sunday, June 13

Nicaragua arrests 2 more potential challengers to President Ortega


The Nicaraguan National Police arrested two other possible challengers to President Daniel Ortega on Tuesday, the third and fourth opposition candidates for the November 7 elections arrested last week.

Félix Maradiaga was arrested after being called to the Attorney General’s Office to give a statement. He is being investigated for alleged crimes against the government. His campaign said in a statement that police detained him, his driver and his lawyer after they left the Attorney General’s Office.

Later on Tuesday, police announced the arrest of Juan Sebastián Chamorro, another candidate and former director of the opposition coalition Alianza Cívica. He had received a notice to appear for an “interview” on Wednesday at the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic to give a statement about a case against the non-governmental group Fundación Nicaragüense para el Desarrollo Social that he led until 2018.

A police statement said he was being investigated for alleged crimes similar to Maradiaga’s.

Just before his arrest, Maradiaga had told reporters that he was interrogated for four hours about his activities as the former director of a non-governmental group focused on economic investigation, whether he had ties to drug traffickers, and whether on his trips to the United States he had requested sanctions against Nicaragua. He said he told them that he had requested sanctions “but not to punish the people, but government officials who have committed crimes against humanity.”

Last week, authorities detained Cristiana Chamorro, Juan Sebastián Chamorro’s cousin, and Arturo Cruz Sequeira, a former ambassador to the United States who was arrested on Saturday under a controversial “treason” law passed in December. On Monday, a judge ordered Cruz’s detention for three months pending an investigation. Cristiana Chamorro remains under house arrest.

Julie Chung, acting undersecretary for Western Hemisphere affairs at the US State Department, said via Twitter that Maradiaga’s “arbitrary” arrest – and last week’s arrests – “confirm without a doubt that Ortega is a dictator. The international community has no choice but to treat it as such ”.

Vice President and First Lady Rosario Murrillo mentioned the investigations Tuesday and characterized the subjects of the probes as “terrorists” and “criminals.”

“They believe that they will go unpunished forever, (but) justice arrives late but it arrives in this Nicaragua that has been prospering and reconciling,” he said. “How much we would have done with what this mountain of thieves stole, not only thieves but also terrorists, criminals.”

Ortega is seeking a fourth consecutive term as president. His government has been moving aggressively to clear the field of rivals. Maradiaga was a pre-candidate for the opposition coalition Blue and White National Unity.

Coalition spokesman Josué Garay said Maradiaga was beaten by police during his arrest, causing his face to swell. He also said that the police were conducting a search at Maradiaga’s home.

A statement from the National Police said that Maradiaga was being investigated for “acts that threaten independence, sovereignty and self-determination, incite foreign interference in internal affairs, request military interventions, organize with financing from foreign powers to carry out acts of terrorism. and destabilization ”. , proposing and managing blockades of economic, commercial and financial operations against the country and its institutions, demanding to exalt and applaud the imposition of sanctions against the Nicaraguan State and its citizens, damaging the supreme interests of the nation ”.

In its own statement, the Attorney General’s Office said it was investigating two organizations that Maradiaga had led: the Fundación Libertad and the Institute for Strategic Studies and Public Policies.

Tiziano Breda, an analyst for Central America at Crisis Group, a nongovernmental group aimed at preventing and resolving deadly conflicts, said the arrests serve multiple purposes for Ortega.

First, he said, it sends a message to mobilize the Sandinista base, reinforcing Ortega’s narrative that the 2018 street protests were a foreign-backed coup attempt. Second, it is a show of force aimed at creating divisions within the opposition and ultimately forcing it to make a decision to back a lesser candidate or not to participate in the elections, Breda said.

Finally, he added, he tests the limits to see what the international community will tolerate, but goes far enough before the November elections to allow negotiations.

“Ortega is trying to eliminate those (candidates) who clearly represent a greater challenge, a greater risk of being able to accumulate enough support to challenge him in the elections,” said Breda.

The U.S. and European sanctions imposed on people close to Ortega and key figures in his government have clearly upset him, but have only led him to dig deeper and not produce concessions, Breda said.

He said the US diplomatic reach, which the Crisis Group recommended in a report last month, would represent an alternative strategy for President Joe Biden’s administration.

Breda said that Ortega could be prosecuted for alleged crimes against humanity once out of office and that so far he has not been given an incentive to relinquish power.


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