Fifth Nicaraguan opposition leader detained in ‘Night of the Long Knives in the Tropics’

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In less than a week, and months before a crucial election, Nicaraguan police have detained five high-profile opposition leaders, according to official police statements.

Three prominent opposition figures, Felix Maradiaga Blandón, Juan Sebastian Chamorro García and Jose Adan Agueri, were arrested on Tuesday, while Arturo Cruz was detained on Saturday. Another opposition politician, Christiana Chamorro. was placed under House arrest on Thursday.

Agueri is a well-known businessman and former president of the Superior Council for Private Enterprise, a national trade 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 election.

Ortega, a left-wing former revolutionary whose Sandinista rebels overthrew Nicaraguan strongman Anastasio Somoza in the 1970s, is trying to win a fourth term on November 7.

Ortega’s government hasn’t shied away from cracking down on the opposition in the past. When there were anti-government protests in the country in 2018, at least 322 people killed, thousands injured and hundreds taken into custody in just four months. At the time, UN human rights experts accused the government of human rights violations in its handling of the protesters.

Ortega said the UN report was “nothing more than an instrument of a policy of death, a policy of terror, a policy of lies, a policy of slander.”

As news emerged on Tuesday evening of the detention of opposition leaders, former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla wrote on Twitter: “It’s the night of the long knife in the tropics.”

The trio, who were detained on Tuesday, were arrested for allegedly acting “against liberty, sovereignty and self-determination”, according to police statements.

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

“Mardiaga rejects the false charges leveled against him and demands his immediate discharge,” his office said in a statement posted on Twitter hours after his arrest.

Nicaraguan businessman Jose Adan Agueri photographed during an interview with Agence France-Presse on June 2, 2020 in Managua.

Chamorro García and Agueri were later arrested on Tuesday. CNN has been unable to reach the legal teams of Aguerri’s and Chamorro Garcia for response.

The charges leveled by the police against Maradiaga, Chamorro García and Adan Agueri are similar to those of Cruz. According to the Nicaraguan National Police and Public Ministry, he was arrested for committing “acts endangering national sovereignty”.

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 immediate release of Arturo Cruz and that his bodily integrity and constitutional rights be respected,” the opposition party said.

Nicaragua's Ortega says unlike 'capitalist', COVID-19 is under control;  country.  local epidemiologists disagree

A tweet from Cruz’s account read, “He is being kept incommunicado and nothing is known about his whereabouts.”

Meanwhile, Christiana Chamorro, has been accused of money laundering and the mismanagement of the Violet Barrios Foundation, a non-profit organization she headed, according to the Nicaraguan Public Ministry.

The Violet Barrios Foundation has been closed since February due to violations of the Foreign Agent Regulation Act, enacted in October 2020. The prosecutor’s office has asked the judicial authority to impose precautionary measures on Chamorro, including a travel ban and disqualification from public walking. office, it said in a statement.

The arrest sparked outrage among 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 two of her aides”, calling their detention “immediately on charges” of “abuse of their rights”, and that it is an attack on democratic values. represents. Also a clear attempt to thwart free and fair elections.”

“The current conditions of repression and boycott do not correspond to credible elections,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Christiana Chamorro, former director of the Violet Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, was placed under house arrest last week.

On Tuesday, Julie Chung, acting assistant secretary of the US State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, called for “an immediate international response” to those detained.

“The Ortega regime is responsible for the welfare of the detainees. They should be released immediately,” Chung tweeted.

Florida Congressman Representative Maria Elvira Salazar also criticized the move and warned that Ortega’s regime would “face full economic sanctions” if free, democratic elections are not held with international observers.

The group’s president and former Nicaraguan-born actress Bianca Jagger said in a statement on Twitter, “The Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation condemns the detention. He called Ortega a “criminal dictator”.

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

CNN’s Gerardo Lemos and Stefano Pozzebon in Bogota, Natalie Gallen in Mexico City and Marlon Sorto, Kirinna Paris, Abel Alvarado and Philippe Wang in Atlanta contributed reporting.

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