Nicaraguan police raided the home of opponent Cristiana Chamorro on Wednesday (2) after the court ordered her arrest on a money laundering charge brought by the government of Daniel Ortega.
His brother Carlos Chamorro posted on a social network that after more than five hours of operation, police determined that the pre-presidential candidate should be under house arrest, but that they were still inside the House.
According to Arelia Barba, counsel for the opposition, the agents violently entered the residence, in the south-east of Managua, where she was preparing to give a press conference after the complaint lodged by the public prosecutor.
Friends and relatives tried to come to the scene, but a strong police and riot police siege prevented them from entering. Images on social media and local TV channels showed police surrounding and entering the opponent’s house. It is also possible to see agents removing journalists who came to cover the case.
Vice-president of one of the largest newspapers in the Central American country, La Prensa, Chamorro is accused of mismanagement, misrepresentation and laundering of money, property and assets. The arrest warrant was issued by a judge in Managua, following a request from the public prosecutor.
The daughter of former President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro (1990-1997) began to be investigated after the Interior Ministry accused her of irregularities in the administration of the foundation which named after his mother (FVBCH) – the organization is dedicated to defending freedom of expression.
In 1990, Violeta Barrios defeated Daniel Ortega at the polls when he sought re-election after his first term (1985-1990).
After ten days of questioning, the public prosecutor accused the opponent on Tuesday (1). The measures sought against Chamorro include “migratory detention, […] prohibition of communicating with persons linked to the facts investigated, in addition to the prohibition of any public office, because they do not fully enjoy their civil and political rights as they are in a criminal case, ”said a statement.
“What the prosecution is doing is barbaric, depriving it of its civil and political rights, while it is only filing a complaint,” said historian and former guerrilla Dora María Téllez. According to her, “Technically, Chamorro is not yet disabled, but she has the sword of Damocles and Ortega’s decision to inhibit her.”
The General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) on Wednesday rejected the disqualification of Chamorro’s political candidacy for the November elections. “Nicaragua is heading for the worst possible elections, and this new attack on democracy makes it even more impossible to hold free, fair and transparent elections in the country,” Luis Almagro’s office said in a statement.
“Actions like this undermine the political credibility of the government and the organizers of the electoral process,” he added.
In his defense, Chamorro said on Tuesday he was innocent. “Here they could not prove any charges, so we can run for office,” he said. The candidate considers the accusations as a farce to withdraw her from the electoral race.
The opponent, who is not affiliated with any party, holds 21% of the voting intentions, behind only Ortega (30%), according to a poll by the Cid Gallup Institute published last week.
U.S. Foreign Minister Antony Blinken posted on a social network that Chamorro’s ban on participation shows Ortega’s fear of free elections. “Nicaraguans deserve real democracy.
The prosecutor’s measures concern three other people, including the correspondent of the Hispanic network Univisión María Lili Delgado, a former employee of the foundation, and journalists María Arróliga and Guillermo Medrano, who worked in the institution until its recent closure.
The FVBCH ended its activities this year after a law passed by the majority government Congress tightened controls on the contributions NGOs receive from abroad and on their declaration of foreign agents. The government sees the contributions as a risk of interference in domestic politics.