Four months before the presidential election in Nicaragua, authorities arrested the sixth opposition candidate, Medardo Mairena, and four other peasant and student leaders on Monday evening.
According to the national police, in addition to Mairena, Freddy Navas and Pedro Mena were arrested. The three are leaders of the Peasant Movement and have been accused of murder, kidnapping and injuries of agents during the 2018 protests against Daniel Ortega’s dictatorship – the strong crackdown on the acts has left some 320 dead, activists say .
The presidential candidate and Mena had previously been arrested and sentenced to 200 years for terrorism and other crimes for their participation in these protests, but were granted the amnesty law in June 2019.
Students Lester Alemán and Max Jérez, seen as the leaders of the occupation of two universities in the “failed coup attempt” as the regime describes the 2018 protests, were also arrested. Alemán, 23, gained notoriety in these demonstrations when, in front of Ortega, demanded his resignation. Before being arrested, he recorded a video in which he claims not to be a traitor to the country, nor guilty of the crimes attributed to him.
The five people are accused of “inciting foreign interference, calling for interventions and applause” for sanctions against Nicaragua, among other crimes, based on Law 1,055, adopted in December and identified by the United Nations. international bodies as a legal mechanism to ban critics and opponents of Ortega in the 2021 Presidential Elections.
Lawyers and jurists believe that peasant and university leaders are victims of a double persecution, for facts which have been tried and for which they have been amnestied. “This is a serious violation of human rights and a demonstration of the terror used by the government against opponents, of revenge and punishment,” said lawyer and human rights activist Gonzalo Carrión.
“There can be no double sanction for the same fact. No one can be tried twice for the same crime”, reinforced the lawyer Yonarqui Martínez.
According to Daniel Ortega’s former vice-president, Sergio Ramírez, who spoke in an interview with Folha, Mairena was “the only serious opponent” who was still in the conflict. The persecution under Law 1,055 began with the arrest of journalist Cristiana Chamorro on June 2, who is now under house arrest. Former ambassador Arturo Cruz, academician Félix Maradiaga, economist Juan Sebastián Chamorro, cousin of Cristiana and Miguel Mora, founder and owner of the television channel 100% Noticias, were also arrested.
“Every day, the possibility for Nicaragua to have free, fair and equal elections is receding,” noted the president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Antonia Urrejola. “The harassment and persecution of dissenting voices does not stop.”
Amnesty International found that the regime “not only does not listen to the international community, but also challenges it with further human rights violations”. In this way, he called for the continuation of the effort to “end the repression, and a more energetic and articulate response is essential”.
The US State Department, meanwhile, called the arrests a “continuing campaign of terror” and said the United States would use all diplomatic and economic tools available to promote a fair election.
In addition to the presidential candidates, critics, activists, businessmen, students and former comrades in arms of the dictator are also imprisoned. “Ortega’s goal is not only to eliminate electoral competition by capturing the sixth presidential candidate, but also to avoid civic resistance. He has arrested more than 20 political, civic, student and peasant leaders,” wrote journalist Carlos Chamorro. on Twitter.
The Nicaraguan, who fled to neighboring Costa Rica in mid-June, is Cristiana Chamorro’s brother.
Amid calls from the international community for the release of these people, the dictator declared that the jailed opponents are “neither candidates, nor politicians, they are criminals” who tried to orchestrate a coup. with American funds. He will try to be re-elected for the third time in a row.