MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Nicaraguan police have arrested half a dozen other opposition figures, including the sixth presidential hopeful to be arrested in a crackdown that began last month.
Among those arrested on Monday was Lesther Alemán, a former student leader who returned to Nicaragua after his exile but remained in safe houses. Also among the detainees were presidential candidate Medardo Mairena and Max Jerez, another student leader.
Two leaders of farmer groups, Pedro Mena and Freddy Navas, were also arrested, and a third, Pablo Morales, has been listed by opposition activists as having been arrested.
Almost all of them were arrested under the “treason” laws that President Daniel Ortega used to detain nearly all of his potential rivals in the November 7 election.
On Tuesday, the European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said on Tuesday that “more restrictive” measures may be needed against the Sandinista regime in Ortega.
“The situation has reached such an extreme that Member States will have to consider more concrete actions, and not just ‘enough already, Mr Ortega’,” Borrell said at a session of the European Parliament.
Alemán played a leading role in the 2018 protests against the Ortega government which met with brutal repression; he then went into exile in the United States and knew he could be a target when he returned in 2019. Alemán had not lived in his home for three years.
As recently as last week, when Alemán went to his party headquarters for a meeting, police arrested him outside the building, checked his IDs and took his picture before taking him. to let in. “When I entered, eight police cars arrived,” Alemán said in an interview shortly after. “I was surrounded and everyone said it was my day.” He declined to explain how he got out.
Alemán’s relatively new party, Citizens for Freedom, has yet to select its candidate, but Alemán said last week that he was planning to run.
The government arrested at least 27 opposition figures over the past month. Most face vague allegations of crimes against the state. Ortega alleges that the April 2018 street protests were part of an attempted coup organized with foreign support.
Alemán rose to fame in May 2018, a month after huge protests erupted and crippled much of the country before being violently suppressed. During the first attempt at dialogue with Ortega, Alemán shocked those watching the live television event.
“It’s not a dialogue table. It is a table to negotiate your exit and you know it well, “he told the president.” Give up! “
Some had previously said that opposition figures like Alemán and Mairena should not honor the tainted elections by participating in them. With five of the best-known potential candidates already in prison and the field leaning heavily in Ortega’s favor as he pursues a fourth consecutive term, some believe the opposition should sit down and not legitimize an Ortega victory. .
But in the case of Alemán and Mairena, Ortega perfectly solved this dilemma by also throwing them in prison, where political prisoners are mostly held in secret places, incommunicado, without access to their relatives or their lawyers. .
Applicants must register by August 2. Two other potential candidates of Alemán’s party – Juan Sebastián Chamorro y Arturo Cruz – have already been arrested.
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