Saturday, November 27

Nicaraguan Business Leaders Arrested in Ortega’s Pre-Election Repression | Nicaragua

Daniel Ortega’s pre-electoral crackdown on the Nicaraguan opposition has taken another prominent scalp with the arrest of one of the main business leaders of the Central American country.

Michael Healy, president of Nicaragua’s main business federation, the Council of Private Enterprise (Cosep), was detained in the capital, Managua, on Thursday, in what opposition activists called an illegal “kidnapping.” The group’s vice president, Álvaro Vargas, was also arrested.

Opposition newspaper La Prensa said the arrest of Healy, a key figure in the unusual alliance between student activists and big business that attempted to overthrow the Nicaraguan president in 2018, exposed “a level of repression that surpasses even violent and oppressive governments. like the one in Venezuela. ”.

“Nicaragua has become the first Latin American economy to put the most important representative of a business association behind bars”, The Press claimed.

The arrests bring the number of opposition figures arrested since Ortega’s political crackdown began in late May to 39. Targets have included student activists such as Lesther Alemán, who rose to fame after publicly berating Ortega during the failed uprising of 2018; candidates for the presidency such as Félix Maradiaga; and Francisco Aguirre-Sacasa, a former foreign minister and elderly political commentator.

His daughter, Georgiana Aguirre-Sacasa, said: “She has been in prison for more than 80 days. He has lost more than 30 pounds and is very, very angry, [and] very discouraged. Feel … there is no end in sight. “

Human rights activists believe the arrests are part of a calculated effort to sideline any perceived threat to the political future of Nicaragua’s septuagenarian Sandinista leader.

The former left-wing revolutionary hero, who helped topple the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and has dominated Nicaraguan politics since then, hopes to secure an unprecedented fourth consecutive term when the country holds its presidential elections on November 7.

Critics say the 75-year-old Nicaraguan president has set out to dismantle the opposition to claim victory in a sham election.

“It’s a pantomime,” said Yefer Bravo, an exiled political activist who, like many members of the opposition, has sought refuge from repression in neighboring Costa Rica.

The arrests come amid mounting international pressure on Ortega and his powerful vice president and wife, Rosario Murillo.

On Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused the couple of “setting up a sham election without credibility, silencing and arresting opponents, and ultimately trying to establish an authoritarian dynasty.”

Earlier in the week, the Organization of American States voted overwhelmingly to demand the release of political prisoners, and Aguirre-Sacasa said he believed the arrests of Vargas and Healy, a dual citizen of Nicaragua and the United States, were retaliation. for the condemnation of the OAS.

“This is another tit-for-tat reaction from Ortega and Murillo … It is incredible what this regime is capable of doing,” he said.

“It is getting worse and worse and I don’t think the November 7 elections are going to change the trajectory of what he’s doing to these political prisoners.”

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