Cape Times

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.

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