Managua, Jul 14 (EFE).- The cascade of arrests of assorted opposition political leaders in Nicaragua has motivated hundreds of dissidents and professionals to abandon the country or to remain abroad, less than four months before the presidential vote, when President Daniel Ortega, who has been in power continuously since 2007, will seek reelection.
Opposition leaders, writers, journalists, physicians, attorneys, former contra rebels and their commanders, young people, laborers and peasants have all self-exiled or delayed their returns to Nicaragua due to reasons of personal safety amid a hostile political environment in which they could find themselves in prison, many of them have confirmed through various channels.
Writer, novelist and former Nicaraguan Vice President Sergio Ramirez – who was summoned to testify last month in a case opened by the Public Ministry against a non-governmental organization for alleged moneylaundering and who appeared in court and then traveled to the US for health reasons – said that he is “pondering” whether or not to return to the Central American country.
Within the framework of the electoral process, Nicaraguan authorities have arrested opposition presidential hopefuls Cristiana Chamorro, Arturo Cruz, Felix Maradiaga, Juan Sebastian Chamorro, Miguel Mora and Medardo Mairena, among other figures opposed to Ortega, and the members of this select group are being investigated for allegedly betraying the homeland.
“There are many people who are leaving (Nicragua) to safeguard their physical integrity, above all the territorial (leaders) who are much more exposed to the repression,” the spokeswoman for the opposition National Blue and White Unity party, Olama Hurtado, told EFE.
On Tuesday, the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy opposition group announced that at least 26 of its leaders had left Nicaragua, the majority of them for the US.
Joining the exiles was the president of the Nicaraguan Democratic Force and former contra leader Luis Fley, who was one of the 11 opposition presidential hopefuls, of whom six are in prison or under house arrest, two have denounced the “police siege” and two others, pre-candidates from the Citizens for Liberty (CxL) party, are keeping a low profile.
From exile, Fley said that for reasons of security he decided to shelve his presidential aspirations in elections in which he said he had no confidence and in which he presumes the CxL will collaborate with the governing Sandinistas to lend the ballotings legitimacy.
The recent wave of exiles or Nicaraguans who have delayed their returns to the country also includes the former commander of the Sandinista Revolution, current dissident Luis Carrion, and former education minister Humberto Belli, the brother of writer Gioconda Belli.
In addition, reporter Carlos Fernando Chamorro, who won the 38th edition of the Ortega y Gasset Journalism Award, announced his own exile after his home was raided by the National Police.
At least six other journalists, dozens of young people or leaders of opposition organizations and dozens more attorneys, teachers, physicians and peasants have also left the country in recent months, according to assorted groups.
According to the Nicaraguans in the World (NEEM) exile movement, dozens of people are leaving Nicaragua each day saying that they are fleeing persecution by the police and by the Citizen Power Councils (CPC), a civil structure created by the governing Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in each neighborhood that opposition members say monitors and denounced Ortega’s detractors.
According to the UN High Commission for Refugees, more than 108,000 Nicaraguans have found themselves forced to abandon the country since April 2018, when a popular revolt against the Ortega government erupted.
National Unity says that the exodus will only cease with an “absolutely free” electoral process, “free, observed and transparent” elections and “civil and political guarantees,” along with the “cessation of repression, persecution and militarization” in Nicaragua and election reforms that guarantee that balloting is held according to international standards.
The arrests and departures of opposition leaders comes in the run-up to the Nov. 7 general election, when Ortega – a former Sandinista guerrilla who returned to power in 2007 after governing the country from 1979-1990 and who since 2017 has governed with his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo – is seeking another five-year term.