The number of presidential candidates and opposition leaders being detained by Nicaragua’s national police force is going up by the hour. Five political opponents to President Daniel Ortega were arrested in less than one week.
Four of those arrested are possible candidates for Nicaragua’s presidential race in November. Candidates Félix Maradiaga and Juan Sebastián Chamorro, as well as businessman José Adan Aguerri, were arrested and charged with crimes against the government on Tuesday. Their arrests are months before the Nicaraguan general election, where President Ortega seeks a fourth term and a fifth overall.
Maradiaga, who was interrogated for several hours by state police on Tuesday morning, gave a press conference that detailed the interrogation. Police asked him about his previous work roles and international trips. Following his press conference, Maradiaga was taken into custody.
The United States State Department’s assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, Julie Chung, said Maradiaga’s arrest and those of Ortega’s other political opponents only serves to prove “Ortega’s credentials as a dictator.”
In recent days, presidential candidates Cristiana Chamorro and Arturo Cruz Sequeira were also arrested. Cruz, like Maradiaga and Juan Sebastían Chamorro, was accused of treason and crimes against the Nicaraguan government.
According to a social media post sent from one of Cruz’s accounts, the location where is being detained is currently unknown. Representatives of his political party Citizens for Freedom Alliance demanded that he be released immediately in a statement
“We demand the prompt release of Arturo Cruz and that his physical integrity and constitutional rights be respected,” the opposition party said.
Since Thursday, Cristiana Chamorro has been under house arrest. She was charged with money laundering.
“Ortega is trying to eliminate those who clearly represent a greater challenge, a greater risk of being able to accumulate sufficient support to challenge him in the elections,” Tiziano Breda, a Central American analyst for Crisis Group, told the Associated Press.
Nicaragua’s presidential elections are slated for Nov. 7 and come five years after Ortega’s controversial election win where he was accused of using the law to sideline his opponents and distort poll numbers.
Since 2014, Michael has been a Latin America reporter. He has lived and worked in Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica and Costa Rica. His work from the region was published in Vice, The Associated Press and The Guardian.