The arrest on Sunday of a fifth opponent with the intention of running for president predicts elections with a free field for a fourth term for Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, although he will probably have to negotiate to avoid international isolation.
Five months before the elections 19 people have been arrested, among political leaders, former dissident guerrillas, journalists, businessmen and even a banker, accused of “inciting foreign interference” and “applauding sanctions” against the Sandinista government, in power since 2007.
The last ones arrested on Monday night were the former first lady María Fernanda Flores, wife of former president Arnoldo Alemán (1997-2002), with house arrest, and sports writer Miguel Mendoza.
“Ortega is showing that he is not willing to risk his power. He is here to stay and he will pay any cost to perpetuate himself, “Nicaraguan writer Gioconda Belli told AFP, via WhatsApp from the United States.
Cristiana Chamorro, daughter of former president Violeta Barrios de Chamorro and presidential candidate, one of the detainees. AFP photo
For her, the choices “they will be a theater.” With the arrest of several candidates, he believes that “the opposition should not participate.”
The actions of the government of Ortega, leader of the former left-wing guerrilla Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN), have motivated sanctions from the international community for undermining democracy and violating human rights.
The last prisoner aspirant was Miguel Mora, in a police raid that began on June 2 with the arrest of Cristiana Chamorro, 67, daughter of former President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro and favorite to face Ortega in the November 7 elections.
They were also apprehended former diplomat Arturo Cruz, the political scientist Félix Maradiaga, or the economist Juan Sebastián Chamorro, Cristiana’s cousin.
The 2018 crisis
Ortega, 75, has been facing a political crisis since 2018, after demonstrations against his government that left 328 dead and thousands of exiles, according to humanitarian organizations.
For the government, it was about an attempted coup sponsored by Washington.
Dora Maria Téllez. former Sandinista commander, another detainee. AFP photo
The vice president and wife of Ortega, Rosario Murillo, has said that only those who commit crimes they are “persecuted”.
In a document released to the press, the government assured that the imprisoned presidential candidates they are “usurpers” financed by the United States to overthrow Ortega.
Although Ortega has not formalized his intentions to run for a fourth consecutive term, his rivals take it for granted.
The Citizens for Freedom Alliance (CXL-right) maintains its position of going to the elections with the available candidate. The registration of participants will be between July 28 and August 2.
“In this scenario of weakness (Ortega) is looking for the guilty, taking hostages hoping perhaps to negotiate and making ridiculous displays of force, “CXL leader Kitty Monterrey told the online magazine Confidencial.
For the sociologist Oscar René Vargas, Ortega’s logic is to eliminate any potential rival that puts his re-election at risk.
The electoral process unfolds “under a de facto state of siege”, he told AFP. According to Vargas, Ortega’s strategy is to allow the participation of candidates tailored to him “to gain a minimum of legitimacy.”
But, faced with the international reaction, “it could be forced to call a negotiation before the vote, “estimated Vargas, who is in exile in Costa Rica after the 2018 protests.
Communicator and government supporter William Grigsby, who hosts the Sin Fronteras program on Radio La Primerísima, believes that the idea is “to fix that once. [la crisis], but it is with the gringos [Estados Unidos], with the circus owners, not with the clowns“, alluding to a possible negotiation.
The Permanent Council of the OAS approved with 26 votes, on June 15, a conviction resolution to the persecution of opponents, a vote not reached in other sessions on the situation of the Central American country, and demanded the immediate release of the detainees.
Mexico and Argentina preferred the “non-intervention in internal affairs”. However, this Monday both countries called their ambassadors in Managua for consultations regarding the “worrying political-legal actions” of the government, “which have put the integrity and freedom of various opposition figures at risk.”
Meanwhile, the human rights defense NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the United Nations to increase pressure to protect human rights and ensure free elections in Nicaragua, and asked to bring the issue to the Security Council, arguing a danger of instability in the region.
Costa Rica, announced on its side that keeps the appointment on hold Xinia Vargas as her ambassador in Nicaragua, due to the “current political conditions” in that country.
For the Foreign Minister of Panama, Erika Mouynes, “we are living what was lived sometime when the situation with [el presidente de Venezuela, Nicolás] Maduro escalated “and reacted with sanctions.
“It is putting the international community to the test: if we use the same recipe and we do not have concrete solutions, or we are going to find some way to try to alleviate the situation (…) for the benefit of the Nicaraguan people who really deserve transparent elections, “he said.