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Nicaragua: Police arrest 2 more opposition contenders

June 9, 2021

Felix Maradiaga and Juan Sebastian Chamorro are seen as potential candidates to unseat longtime President Daniel Ortega, who has been cracking down on opposition ahead of the November election.

Felix Maradiaga
Maradiaga was held after appearing at the public ministry to answer questionsImage: imago images/Agencia EFE/J. Torres

Nicaragua's National Police on Tuesday arrested two potential challengers to President Daniel Ortega on Tuesday, bringing the total number of detained potential candidates to four. Opposition politicians Felix Maradiaga and Juan Sebastian Chamorro are seeking to run against Ortega in the November election.

"Nicaraguan brothers and sisters, if you are watching this video it is because I was detained by the Ortega regime," Maradiaga said in a video posted on his Twitter account shortly after his arrest.

In recent days, opposition politicians Arturo Cruz and Cristiana Chamorro were also arrested, sparking domestic and international outcry over an ongoing crackdown being carried out by Ortega. 

What we know about the arrests

Maradiaga, an academic and businessman, is being investigated for alleged acts against sovereignty, terrorism and backing international sanctions against the government. He had been called in to the Attorney General's Office to provide a statement, and was arrested thereafter. 

"I am going to stay in the running for the presidential candidacy," Maradiaga told reporters shortly before being detained.

Opposition spokesman Josue Garay said police beat Maradiaga during his arrest. Security forces were also carrying out a search of Maradiaga's home, according to Garay.

Juan Sebastian Chamorro, a cousin of Cristiana Chamorro, was arrested later on Tuesday. 

Nicaraguan politician Juan Sebastian Chamorro
Chamorro is the fourth potential presidential candidate arrested in a weekImage: Courtesy of J.S. Chamorro

He had received a notice to appear for an "interview" Wednesday at the Attorney General's office over a case against the nongovernmental organization Nicaraguan Foundation for Social Development, which he had led until 2018.

Two separate police statements listed the reasons for the arrests, including allegations of working with foreign financing to carry out "acts of terrorism and destabilization." No further details were mentioned in the statements.

Nicaraguan Vice President and first lady Rosario Murrillo described the subjects of the investigations as "terrorists" and "criminals."

"They believe they'll be forever unpunished, but justice will arrive," she said. 

US says Ortega is a 'dictator'

The United States State Department's acting assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, Julie Chung, said Maradiaga's "arbitrary'' arrest, along with last week's detentions, "confirm without a doubt that Ortega is a dictator. The international community has no choice but to treat him as such." 

Several international organizations have accused Ortega's government of fabricating false accusations against its opponents.

"In the last 30 years, I've never seen anything like it," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director for Human Rights Watch (HRW), on Twitter. "Multilateral efforts are urgently needed to stop Ortega." 

Ortega, who had served as president in the 1980s, returned to power in 2007 and has governed three consecutive terms since. He is now seeking a fourth term.

fb/wmr (AP, Reuters)