Nicaraguan police said on Sunday they had detained four more opposition figures in a raid ahead of the November presidential elections, in which four potential contenders for leader Daniel Ortega are already detained.
Those arrested on Sunday were the main figures of the opposition party Unamos: its president Suyen Barahona Cuan, Vice President Hugo Torres, former guerrilla Dora María Téllez and Ana Margarita Vigil Guardian, according to a police statement.
He said the four were being investigated for “acts that undermine independence, sovereignty and self-determination, (e) incitement to foreign interference in internal affairs,” among other crimes.
Unamos, formerly known as the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), is made up largely 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 the Ortega government and passed by parliament in December to defend Nicaragua’s “sovereignty”, which has been criticized by opponents and human rights organizations as a way to freeze the contenders.
Julie Chung, the top US diplomat for Latin America, called the arrests “arbitrary” and denounced Ortega’s “campaign of terror” in a tweet.
“The members of the OAS (Organization of American States) must send a clear signal this week: enough repression. The region cannot stand still and wait to see who comes next,” he added.
Among the most recent detainees, Téllez, 65, has in recent years been a vocal critic of Ortega, a former partner in arms.
They fought together as guerrillas against the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza in the 1970s, and later served as its Minister of Health in the 1980s, before departing in 1995 to co-found the MRS.
She was fiercely critical of the Ortega government’s crackdown on protests that began in 2018 to demand his resignation, which according to human rights groups claimed at least 328 lives.
Ortega ruled Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990, returned to power in 2007, and has won two successive reelections since then.
Now 75, the opposition and NGOs accuse him of increasing authoritarianism.
Ortega is expected to seek a fourth term in the November elections, although he has not said so.
Since the beginning of the month, his forces have arrested a dozen opposition figures, including four potential presidential candidates, prompting international condemnation and new US sanctions against Ortega’s allies.
Last month, Nicaragua’s legislature appointed a majority of ruling magistrates aligned with the party to the electoral body that will oversee the vote.
Since then it has disqualified two games from participating.