Dictator Ortega ordered the arrest of Cristiana Chamorro
Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega is taking no risk in his efforts to be reelected for a fourth term in November: he not only filled the electoral tribunal with loyalists, but he also barred the most popular opposition presidential candidates from standing. stand for election.
On June 1, Ortega’s attorney general’s office announced charges of “mismanagement and ideological lying” and “money laundering” against independent presidential candidate Cristiana Chamorro. She is the daughter of the late President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro and, according to a recent poll, the most popular opposition figure in the country.
The announcement came just hours after Chamorro formally submitted his candidacy to win the opposition nomination in the November 7 election. This effectively bars him from running for president.
In recent weeks, Ortega had placed three other main presidential candidates under house arrest or under constant police surveillance. The three candidates – Félix Madariaga, Juan Sebastián Chamorro and Medardo Mairena – are also seeking to lead a united opposition list in November.
As I was writing this on Wednesday, the police broke into Violeta Chamorro’s house with an arrest order. Three hours after the raid, she is still being held inside her home, with international human rights groups calling for her release.
The charges against Chamorro are ridiculous. She is accused because of her role as head of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, perhaps the most prestigious press freedom group in Nicaragua. Like other civic groups, it was forced to suspend operations in February after the Ortega regime imposed huge fines on civic groups that receive foreign funding.
The night before police raided his home, I questioned Chamorro in an extended phone interview about the odds of Ortega allowing a reasonably competitive election in November.
“It’s going to be very hard,” Chamorro told me. “The deadline set by the Organization of American States for Ortega to reform electoral laws has already passed, and what he did was create an even more partisan and illegitimate electoral council. “
In addition, “government repression has worsened. They froze my bank accounts, they follow me everywhere, they put two of my collaborators in prison and they summoned 25 journalists to testify against me, ”she declared.
Chamorro told me that she was running for the opposition nomination as an independent because she wanted to unite the anti-Ortega parties behind a single candidate. In the last elections, the opposition presented itself with several candidates, fragmenting the anti-Ortega vote.
Now, after the massive street protests of 2018 in which Ortega’s paramilitary henchmen killed around 300 opposition protesters, the opposition can unite “because Ortega has become a big monster,” she told me.
Ortega appears poised to steal the upcoming election even more blatantly than the last. The Nicaraguan constitution originally prohibited him from serving two consecutive terms, but he amended it to remain in power indefinitely.
And, judging from what Ortega told me during my last interview at his home in Managua in 2018, he probably cares very little about being called an autocrat. When I asked him if it bothered him to be called a “dictator”, he shrugged his shoulders and answered me without the slightest trace of annoyance:. “
Following Ortega’s last fraudulent re-election in 2016, the U.S. government passed the Nica Act of 2018, which restricts U.S. lending to Nicaragua until the country takes effective steps to hold free elections.
But economic sanctions don’t seem to matter much to Ortega. Nicaragua has a record $ 3.4 billion in international reserves, enough to withstand foreign economic sanctions for at least a year.
The Biden administration is expected to go further and push for congressional approval of the RENACER bill, introduced in March by Senator Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey. This would expand existing sanctions and, more importantly, require intelligence agencies to collect information about the corruption of Ortega and his family.
Ortega may care very little about economic or diplomatic sanctions, but he may not want to be publicly embarrassed in front of Nicaraguans about his children’s corrupt trade deals. It could hurt him politically. RENACER legislation could be an additional and indispensable means of forcing him to restore some semblance of democracy in Nicaragua.
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