Defense 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 strong repression by President Daniel Ortega’s government ahead of the November elections has led to a rebuke of the European Union’s top diplomat.
In a statement on Tuesday, police said they arrested three agricultural worker leaders – Medardo Mairena, who was planning a presidential candidacy, Pedro Mena and Freddy Navas – on Monday, accusing them of murdering and kidnapping police officers and civilians. armed robbery and extortion, among others. other crimes.
Police 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 faced harsh retaliation from Nicaraguan security forces and in which about 230 people died, according to rights groups.
Detained leaders are among more than two dozen presidential hopefuls, opposition leaders and business figures who have been arrested over the past month amid relentless repression by the Ortega government.
The president has long justified the arrests by saying his administration was prosecuting criminals who plotted a coup against him.
Ortega has used “betrayal” laws to detain almost all of his potential rivals in the Nov. 7 election. “It simply came to our notice then. Everything we do, we do for 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, winning two successive re-election bids since – of growing authoritarianism. .
Aleman, one of the people arrested on Monday, was a leader of the 2018 protests who returned to Nicaragua after going into exile abroad. His relatively new Citizens for Freedom party has not yet selected its presidential candidate, 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 avoid citizen resistance. He has arrested more than twenty political, civic, self-proclaimed leaders, students and peasants, “Nicaraguan journalist Carlos Chamorro said on Twitter.
Chamorro, who fled to neighboring Costa Rica in mid-June, is the brother of the arrested opposition leader Christian Chamorro.
On Tuesday, EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said “more restrictive” measures could be needed against Ortega’s Sandinista government.
“The situation has reached such an extreme that member states will have to study more concrete actions, and not just ‘enough is enough, Mr Ortega,’ Borrell said at a session of the European Parliament.
The United States, as well as the Organization of American States (OAS), have done so condemned the wave of arrests, calling on the Nicaraguan government to stop threatening opposition figures and ensure that free elections can be held.
Argentina and Mexico as well they withdrew their envoys to Nicaragua last month for repression.