Call for Nicaragua to end crackdown on political rivals
NICARAGUA’S government is facing growing international pressure this week to halt a crackdown on political opponents amid reports that a prominent journalist fled the country and a former first lady was placed under house arrest.
In a joint statement, 59 countries at the UN Human Rights Council, including the US, urged the government of President Daniel Ortega to roll back the campaign that has targeted opposition leaders, journalists, human rights activists and business executives for harassment and arrest ahead of presidential elections in November.
“We are deeply concerned that recently enacted laws unduly restrict political participation, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. The arbitrary dissolution of political parties and the criminal proceedings against multiple presidential contenders and dissidents are especially worrisome,” the statement said.
In recent weeks, authorities have stepped up the persecution of Ortega’s political rivals in particular, in what Human Rights Watch said appears to be “part of a broader strategy to suppress dissent, instil fear, and restrict political participation.”
Ortega is seeking a fourth consecutive term as president. He previously held the post from 1984 to 1990.
On Tuesday, the UN’s Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet warned of an “accelerating deterioration of the human rights situation” in the Central American nation, where she said “a climate of fear” made it unlikely a free and fair vote would be held.
“This crisis not only shows no signs of being overcome, but it has worsened alarmingly,” Bachelet said.
The mounting criticism came as prominent Nicaraguan journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro announced on Twitter on Tuesday that he and his wife had fled the country following a police raid on his home.
“My wife Desirée Elizondo and I left Nicaragua to protect our freedom. Doing journalism and reporting the truth is not a crime,” said Chamorro, who edits the Confidencial website and is a member of one of Nicaragua’s most powerful political families.