Arrested opponents are “criminals,” says Ortega. from Nicaragua

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Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega speaks next to First Lady and Vice President Rosario Murillo during the inauguration ceremony of a freeway overpass in Managua, Nicaragua. (File Photo / AP)

MANAGUA: Nicaragua’s leader Daniel Ortega said Wednesday that 19 opposition activists arrested five months before a presidential election were not politicians but “criminals” who “want to overthrow the government”.
In raids that began on June 2, security and paramilitary forces arrested five challengers to the opposition president, as well as journalists, business people and a banker.
Cristiana Chamorro, the daughter of former President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro and a favorite who took on Ortega in the November poll, was among those who took part.
“We are not dealing with pre-candidates, but with criminals who have attacked the country,” Ortega said in an official television ceremony and accused the detainees of being “agents of the Yankee Empire” who “conspire against Nicaragua Overthrow government “.
“We pursue this, it will be investigated and it will be punished in due course.”
Detainees are charged with “inciting foreign interference” under a new law enacted by Ortega’s government and approved by lawmakers in December allegedly defending Nicaragua’s sovereignty. The law has been widely criticized as a means of freezing challengers and silencing opponents.
The recent arrests have heightened international condemnation.
At a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday, 59 nations made a statement saying they were “deeply concerned that recent laws unduly restrict political participation, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association” in Nicaragua .
The Organization of American States’ Human Rights Council (OAS) on Wednesday denounced a “new phase of repression” in the country and called on the organization’s judicial authorities to protect four of the opposition politicians jailed.
During the OAS meeting, United States Representative Bradley Freden, citing Secretary of State Antony Blinken, said it was time for Ortega’s administration to “change course” and “allow the Nicaraguan people to fully exercise their rights, including his right to choose his leaders ”. in free and fair elections. ”
Ortega was accused of authoritarianism by the opposition and the international community after the brutal repression of demonstrations against his government in April 2018, which claimed more than 300 deaths and thousands of exiles, according to human rights organizations.
A fervent Marxist at a young age, Ortega and his Sandinistaers overthrew a corrupt autocratic regime to public applause and took control of the country in 1979.
He ruled until 1990, returned to power in 2007 and was re-elected twice in a row. Its vice president is his wife, Rosario Murillo.
The 75-year-old is widely expected to run again in the November election, despite not saying so.

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