MANAGUA: Nicaraguan police moved on Wednesday (June 2) to arrest opposition figure Cristiana Chamorro, raiding her home armed with an arrest warrant based on money laundering claims made by the government of President Daniel Ortega.
Chamorro, 67, is seen as a serious challenger to Ortega in November’s presidential elections, although he has not confirmed whether he will seek a fourth term.
His mother, Violet Barrios de Chamorro, defeated Ortega for the presidency in 1990 to become the first elected female head of state in the US.
A Managua court said in a statement on Wednesday that it ordered the detention of Cristiana Chamorro, accused of “crimes of degrading management, ideological lying” and “laundering of money, property and assets” to the detriment of the Nicaraguan state and society Had given. “
Her assistant Arelia Barba told AFP that agents broke into Chamorro’s home in the capital Managua while she was preparing to give a news conference.
Press reports said that the police kept Chamorro’s friends and family as well as journalists away from the scene.
On Tuesday, prosecutors charged Chamorro with a series of crimes, and asked her to be banned from public duties, as she faces criminal proceedings.
Legal experts have condemned the process as “illegal”, noting that the electoral council has not made a decision on their eligibility.
The allegations stem from Chamorro’s role as head of the Press Freedom Foundation, with prosecutors claiming accounting “inconsistencies”.
Chamorro left the foundation in February, refusing to comply with a new law that required anyone receiving funds from abroad to declare themselves as “foreign agents” to the government.
The prosecution started the investigation against him on May 20 on the request of the government.
She has dismissed the charges against her as a “spectacle” to prevent her from running in November’s election, which is widely expected to be contested by Ortega.
Chamorro, a journalist who does not belong to a political party, announced on Tuesday that she would seek nomination from the opposition.
Shortly before police entered Chamorro’s home on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced the Ortega government’s moves against Chamorro, saying the Central American country deserves “real democracy.”
On his visit to Latin America, Blinken tweeted: “The arbitrary banning of opposition leader @chamorrocris reflects Ortega’s fear of a free and fair election. The people of Nicaragua deserve real democracy.”
The Organization of American States, for its part, warned Nicaragua was “heading towards the worst possible elections.”
It said in a statement: “This process of systematic and repeated violations of the rule of law and fundamental freedoms legitimizes the electoral process even before it takes place.”
The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights condemned the “violation of human rights”.
Opposition parties in a joint statement accused Ortega of being a “sneak hunt” against the candidates because he fears going to “a free, transparent and celebrated” election.
Last month, Nicaragua’s parliament appointed a majority of party-aligned magistrates to the election body that will oversee November’s elections.
It has since disqualified the two parties.
In December, parliament approved a law critics say is aimed at barring opposition politicians from standing in the polls. Sponsored by Ortega, it “prevents those asking, celebrating and applauding the imposition of sanctions against the state of Nicaragua.”
Ortega, a former guerrilla who ruled from 1979 to 1990, returned to power in 2007 and won two consecutive elections.
Since 2018, the 75-year-old leader has faced a political crisis due to massive protests against his government’s policies.
According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), 328 people were killed in the demonstrations and thousands were deported.
Ortega blamed a failed coup attempt backed by Washington.
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