Rights groups accuse President Daniel Ortega of growing authoritarianism amid a wave of arrests ahead of the November polls.
Nicaraguan authorities have arrested at least five other opposition leaders, as radical repression by the government of President Daniel Ortega ahead of the November elections has led to the reprimand of the first European Union diplomat.
In a statement Tuesday, police said they had arrested three farmers’ leaders – Medardo Mairena, who had planned a presidential candidacy, Pedro Mena, and Freddy Navas – on Monday, accusing them of murder and kidnapping of police officers and civilians, armed robbery and extortion, among other crimes.
Police have also arrested student leaders Lesther Aleman and Max Jerez on charges of armed robbery, kidnapping, rape and other crimes.
Police said all the crimes were committed during a wave of anti-government protests in 2018, which has faced harsh crackdowns by Nicaraguan security forces and where about 230 people have been killed, according to rights groups.
The detained leaders are among more than two dozen presidential aspirants, opposition leaders and business figures who were arrested last month amid uninterrupted repression by the Ortega government.
The longtime president justified the arrests by saying his administration was prosecuting criminals who were plotting a coup against him.
Ortega used “betrayal” laws to detain almost all of his potential rivals in the Nov. 7 election. “It’s absurd to release them. Everything we do, we do with the book, ”he said last month.
But civil society and human rights groups have accused the 75-year-old – who ruled Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990 and returned to power in 2007 – of winning two successive re-election bids since then. a growing authoritarianism.
Aleman, one of the people arrested on Monday, was a leader of the 2018 protests returning to Nicaragua after being exiled abroad. His relatively new Citizens for Freedom party has yet to select his candidate for the presidency, but Aleman had said last week that he planned to run.
“Ortega’s goal is not only to eliminate electoral competition by capturing the sixth presidential candidate, but also to defeat civic resistance. He has arrested more than 20 political, civic, self-proclaimed leaders, students and peasants,” he said. said Nicaraguan journalist Carlos Chamorro on Twitter.
Chamorro, who fled to neighboring Costa Rica in mid-June, is the brother of the opposition leader. Christian Chamorro.
On Tuesday, the first EU diplomat, Josep Borrell, said “more restrictive” measures may be needed against Ortega’s Sandinista government.
“The situation has reached such an extreme that Member States need to study more concrete actions, and not just‘ enough already, Mr Ortega, ’” Borrell told a session of the European Parliament.
The United States, and the Organization of American States (OAS), have condemned the wave of arrests, urging the Nicaraguan government to stop threatening opposition figures and to ensure that free elections are held.
Argentina and Mexico too he withdrew his envoys to Nicaragua last month for repression.