A report by the NGO Human Rights Watch released on Tuesday (22) indicates that the harassment of politicians, journalists and opponents, which is intensifying in Nicaragua, is part of a broader strategy of the dictatorial regime led by Daniel Ortega to “Instilling fear and restricting political participation” in view of the November presidential election.
“Nicaraguans encounter immense obstacles in ensuring respect for their rights to express themselves, as well as to meet in assembly, to join parties, to register for free and fair elections,” the text indicates.
The study was conducted between February and June, through interviews with 53 people, including activists, journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders and opponents who were harassed or arbitrarily detained. Photos and videos recording human rights violations were also analyzed.
The organization asked the Nicaraguan government for comment on the events described in the report, but received no response.
At the conclusion of the HRW document, four pre-candidates for the elections had been arrested. Cristiana Chamorro, daughter of Violeta Chamorro, accused of money laundering; diplomat Arturo Cruz Sequeira, for “conspiracy against Nicaragua”; academic and political activist Félix Maradiaga, indicted for allegedly plotting for military intervention in the country and “organization of terrorist attacks”; and Juan Sebastián Chamorro, economist and cousin of Cristiana Chamorro, also accused of conspiracy against the motherland.
Once the investigation was completed, Miguel Mora, a communications entrepreneur and owner of the 100% channel, was also arrested. Mora had already been arrested by the Ortega dictatorship, along with his wife, Lucía Pineda Ubau, in 2018. At the time, the charge was of “incitement to hatred” while covering the violent crackdown that Ortega promoted against the protesters who took to the streets. to protest against a policy of adjustments. The protests that year left 328 people dead.
According to HRW, the arrest of the pre-candidates was carried out by trampling on several rights – for example, there are recordings of military and police vehicles in front of the houses before the arrest to scare them and of regime supporters ordered to act. noise. at night and keep them from sleeping.
During this period, house sieges made it difficult for people to go out to buy food and other essentials and prevent the arrival of family members and lawyers. In one case, police prevented one of their two children from going to school for three days.
Journalists reported that when approaching these places, it was common to have their cell phones seized and removed, so that they could not do their jobs. The arrests were made illegally, without the charges being brought to the detainees.
From figures collected by local human rights organizations, HRW has collected 400 cases of attacks on media and journalists. Many have seen their homes and offices searched, equipment stolen, and have been called for questioning in which pressure was exerted on them to quit their professional activity.
After being released, many were told they could be re-arrested at any time. The NGO sees it as an attempt to promote self-censorship in the few independent media still active in Nicaragua.
The report ends with requests addressed to the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, to “speak publicly” on the subject and to contact the Nicaraguan authorities to express their concern. He also calls on the governments of the United States, Canada, the European Union and the countries of Latin America to put pressure on the Ortega dictatorship to allow the return to the country of the international human rights organizations expelled in 2018.
The organization is also calling for an assessment of sanctions, including travel bans and an overseas asset freeze, for both Daniel Ortega and his wife and vice-president, Rosario Murillo, as well as for names at the top. of the Nicaraguan dictatorship. Among them, Edwin Castro, spokesperson for the ruling party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front, the Attorney General, Ana Julia Guido Ochoa, and the head of the national police, Javier Díaz.