Observers accuse President Daniel Ortega of targeting opposition leaders and other figures ahead of the November election.
Nicaragua police arrest a prominent banker a fight against political leaders of the opposition and prospective presidential candidates seeking to challenge President Daniel Ortega are set to advance to a planned election later this year.
Luis Rivas Anduray, executive president of the private Banco de la Produccion (Banpro) – one of the country’s largest – was arrested on Tuesday for “inciting foreign interference”, according to a police statement.
Police said Rivas is being investigated for proposing and managing blockades of economic, commercial and financial activities and for supporting sanctions against Nicaragua.
Banpro said in a statement that it adheres to Nicaraguan laws and is confident that Rivas’ “situation will be clarified”.
He is the youngest of more than a dozen opposition leaders and other figures detained this month, first to authorities hit the house of the presidential hopeful Cristiana Chamorro, a journalist and daughter of former president Violeta Chamorro, over allegations of money laundering.
Chamorro, which was later placed under house arrest, rejected the accusation.
Observers have rejected the wave of arrests – at least 14 people, including opposition leaders, have been detained so far – as an attempt by Ortega to clear the way for his re-election in the November polls.
The Organization of American States (OAS) on Tuesday adopted a resolution expressing alarm over the recent deterioration of the political climate and human rights in Nicaragua.
It accused the government of being involved in “the abuse of legislation and actions to intimidate and threaten members of the opposition and press and restrict political participation” – and called on Managua to introduce measures “to make transparent, to promote free and fair elections “.
But the Nicaraguan government has defended its recent actions, accusing US-funded “usurpers” of trying to overthrow Ortega.
Five more opposition figures were Detained on Sunday, including four from the Unamos opposition party, formerly known as the Sandinista Renewal Movement (MRS), which consists largely of dissidents divided from Ortega’s Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).
DECISION | “The situation in #Nicaragua”
– OAS (@OAS_official) 15 June 2021
The government accused party leaders of inciting “foreign intervention” by the United States, saying they had “received millions of dollars in cash from the American public, despite the US aid organization USAID”.
Unamos rejected the arrests in a statement on Sunday, saying they were “part of the increase in the suppression of the Ortega regime against the democratic opposition”.
Under legislation passed in December, the Ortega government has the power to unilaterally declare citizens ‘terrorists’ or state creators, classify them as ‘traitors to the homeland’ and ban them from acting as candidates.
The law punishes those who ‘who lead or finance a coup … encourage foreign interference, call for military intervention … propose or plan economic blockades, applaud and advocate the imposition of sanctions against Nicaragua or its citizens’.
Ortega ruled Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990 and returned to power in 2007. He has since won two consecutive re-elections. Now 75, he is accused by the opposition and NGOs of increasing authoritarianism.
He is generally expected to run for a fourth term, but he has not yet confirmed his candidacy in the upcoming election.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday urged the Nicaraguan government on Wednesday to “change course” and “allow the Nicaraguan people to exercise their full rights – including their right to their leaders in free and fair to elect elections “.
Blinken welcomes the OAS resolution adopted a day earlier, which he said “sends a clear message of support to the Nicaraguan people and their struggle for free and fair elections, respect for human rights and accountability”.
The US on June 9 sanctions imposed on four Nicaraguan officials who support Ortega, including the president’s daughter, who accuse them of undermining democracy and abusing human rights.