Nicaraguan police said on Sunday they had arrested four more opposition members in a roundup ahead of the November presidential election in which four potential challengers of long-serving leader Daniel Ortega have already been detained.
Those arrested Sunday were top figures of the opposition Unamos party — its President Suyen Barahona Cuan, Vice President Hugo Torres, ex-guerrillas Dora Maria Tellez and Ana Margarita Vigil Guardian, a police statement said.
It said the four were being investigated for “acts that undermine independence, sovereignty and self-determination, (and) incite foreign interference in internal affairs,” among other crimes.
Formerly known as the Sandinista Renewal Movement (MRS), Unamos is largely made up of dissidents who split from Ortega’s Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) because they disagreed with his leadership.
The charges stem from a law initiated by Ortega’s government and passed by parliament in December to defend Nicaragua’s “sovereignty,” which has been criticized by opponents and rights bodies as a way to freeze challengers.
Julie Chung, the top US diplomat for Latin America, called the arrests “arbitrary” and denounced Ortega’s “terror campaign” in a tweet.
“OAS members (Organization of American States) must send a clear signal this week: enough repression. The region cannot stand by and see who is next,” she added.
One of the latest detainees is Tellez, 65, who in recent years has been an outspoken critic of Ortega, a former comrade in arms.
They fought together as guerrillas against the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza in the 1970s, and she later served as its health minister in the 1980s, before leaving in 1995 to co-founded the MRS.
She was fiercely critical of the government’s repression by the Ortega against demonstrations that began in 2018 to demand his resignation, which human rights groups say claimed at least 328 lives.
Ortega ruled Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990, returned to power in 2007 and has since won two consecutive reelections.
Now 75 years old, he has been accused by the opposition and NGOs of increasing authoritarianism.
Ortega is widely expected to run for a fourth term in the November election, although he has not said so.
Since the beginning of the month, his troops have arrested about a dozen opposition members, including four potential presidential candidates, sparking international condemnation and new US sanctions against Ortega allies.
Last month, Nicaragua’s legislature appointed a majority of the ruling party’s magistrates to the electoral body that will oversee the vote.
It has since disqualified two sides from participating.