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Pre-Election Crackdown on Civil and Political Rights in Nicaragua Worsens

FILE - Nicaraguan police officers block journalists working outside the house of opposition leader Cristiana Chamorro after prosecutors sought her arrest for money laundering and other crimes, in Managua, Nicaragua, June 2, 2021.

A report submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council blasts the Nicaraguan government’s harsh crackdown on opposition leaders in advance of November 7 Presidential and Parliamentary elections.

Critics accuse Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega of systematically ridding himself of viable opposition candidates to secure a fourth consecutive term as President of the country.

In her latest update to the Council, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet said increasing restrictions by Nicaraguan authorities on peoples’ right to vote are undermining free and fair elections. She said Nicaraguans should be able to exercise their right to vote without intimidation, violence, or administrative interference.

Her report documents the arbitrary detention of 16 people between June 22 and September 6. They include political leaders, human rights defenders, businesspeople, journalists, as well as peasant and student leaders.

She said these arrests are in addition to 20 other government opponents who have been detained since May 28. She spoke through an interpreter.

“This group includes six men and one woman who have publicly stated that they were aspiring to the presidency…The large majority of these people remain deprived of their liberty and have been so for up to 90 days, being held incommunicado, some in isolation without any official confirmation as to their whereabouts from the authorities to their families,” she said.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office says most of the people detained are accused of conspiracy to undermine national integrity and other crimes linked to the implementation of cooperation funds.

U.N. rights chief Bachelet said attacks on freedom of expression and against the media and journalists have intensified. She said similar patterns of repression are being registered against human rights defenders, social and political leaders, among others.

“Given this deteriorating situation in Nicaragua, it is essential that the government once again guarantee the full enjoyment of civil and political rights of all Nicaraguans, that they put an end to persecution of the opposition, press, and civil society, and that they immediately and unconditionally release the over 130 persons detained since April 2018, according to civil society sources,” said Bachelet.

The Nicaraguan government has consistently brushed off U.N. and international criticism, claiming it is based on disinformation from North American and European countries seeking to maintain their colonial grip on the country.