Nicaraguan opposition leader who was jailed by president dead at age 73
Nicaraguan opposition leader Hugo Torres, who was imprisoned eight months ago by the country’s government under President Daniel Ortega, has died at the age of 73, his family said on Saturday, according to The Associated Press.
Torres was a commander in the Sandinista revolutionary movement of the 1970s who once helped free Ortega from jail and fought along with him to overthrow the Nicaraguan government in 1979, per the AP. He later broke with Ortega to form the Sandinista Renovation Movement and was jailed last summer along with dozens of other opposition leaders ahead of Ortega’s re-election, which international organizations have called a farce.
Torres died of “illnesses he had,” according to government prosecutors, per the AP. It was unclear if his death was hastened by his confinement in prison.
Following the news, the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) condemned “the death of the political prisoner General Hugo Torres” and “the persecution and arbitrary detention for political reasons in the country.”
“The General Secretariat of the OAS considers the fact of keeping political prisoners, with terminal illnesses and without necessary medical assistance, an abominable act, violating their fundamental rights,” the organization said in a statement on Saturday.
Ortega’s Sandinista National Liberation Front political party held power from 1979 until 1990, and regained power when Ortega was elected president in 2007. He has held onto the office ever since.
Following Ortega’s re-election victory last year and ahead of his inauguration, the U.S. sanctioned six Nicaraguan officials.
“The Ortega-Murillo regime continues its subjugation of democracy through effectuating sham elections, silencing peaceful opposition, and holding hundreds of people as political prisoners,” Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in a statement at the time.
Nelson also said that the move was intended to send “a clear message to President Ortega, Vice President Murillo, and their inner circle that we continue to stand with the Nicaraguan people in their calls for the immediate release of these political prisoners and a return to democracy.”
Torres was one of 46 opposition leaders rounded up and arrested last year by Ortega, according to the AP. Before his arrest in June, Torres criticized his former ally in an interview with the wire service.
“This is not a transition to dictatorship, it is a dictatorship in every way,” Torres said.
“This interview may be the last one I give,” he told the AP. “I am here, waiting for them to come for me.”
Torres was arrested hours after the interview.