Managua, Aug 4 (EFE).- Nicaraguan authorities have detained a presidential candidate as President Daniel Ortega’s government continues to eliminate opponents three months out from the election in which the leader will seek his fifth five-year term.
The latest to be forced out of the electoral race is Miss Nicaragua 2017, Berenice Quezada, who aspired to the vice-presidency for the opposition Citizens for Freedom Alliance (CxL Alliance).
Along with Quezada, there are now 32 opposition figures, including seven presidential candidates, who have been detained since May 28.
According to the center-right coalition, the 27-year-old candidate “was notified at her home by the judicial authorities and the public ministry, accompanied by the police,” and is now under house arrest without access to telephone, with travel restrictions and prohibited from running for public office.
The former beauty queen was arrested at the request of a group of citizens who identify themselves as “victims and relatives of the 2018 coup terrorism,” related to the government, who requested the disqualification of her candidacy for allegedly justifying the crime and inciting hatred.
Quezada had told reporters that she wants “Nicaragua to be free,” advocated for political prisoners and called on Nicaraguans to vote and take to the streets as in April 2018 – a popular revolt that the government describes as a coup attempt – to show that Nicaragua does not want “more dictatorships.”
So far, the Nicaraguan authorities have neither confirmed nor denied the arrest or disqualification of Quezada.
“How many house arrests, kidnappings and exiles of candidates for public office are going to be needed…?” asked the law professor and constitutional lawyer María Asunción Moreno, one of the presidential candidates who left Nicaragua for security reasons.
Ortega’s wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, is also seeking to renew her term alongside her husband.
For writer Gioconda Belli, “the 132,000 followers” that Quezada has on Instagram “scare Daniel and Rosario, to the point that they inhibit her and prescribe her house for jail.”
“A willing Miss Nicaragua exhibits the smallness of the Ortega Murillo regime. You have to see to believe,” said Belli.
According to an analyst consulted by Efe, Ortega not only wants to control the electoral process, but also the discourse.
“It seems to me that they want to impose a kind of total silence, a kind of veto of any reference to the events of 2018 (…), and any narrative that may contradict the ruling rhetoric,” said Tiziano Breda, Central America analyst at the International Crisis Group.
In the analyst’s opinion, there is an “inordinate fear” in the authorities that the issue of the popular revolt that broke out in April 2018, which left at least 328 dead and tens of thousands in exile, will gain strength in the electoral context.
“This responds to that fear and to this attempt to continue crushing any type of speech that is not in accordance with the government rhetoric to continue discouraging the participation in this process and the free expression of Nicaraguans,” he said.
After the disqualification of its candidate for the vice-presidency, the CxL Alliance declared itself in “an emergency session and in internal consultation.”
In Nicaragua, a Central American country of 6.5 million inhabitants, some 4.3 million are authorized to vote. EFE