Nicaragua arrests five opposition leaders

Nicaragua arrests five opposition leaders
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The Nicaraguan government under President Daniel Ortega arrested five opposition leaders this weekend in an apparent effort to tamp down on any potential threats to Ortega's authority.

The Associated Press reports that four arrests occurred on Saturday and one arrest occurred on Sunday. These arrests suggest that Ortega is not solely concentrating on potential rivals in the upcoming November elections, but also other prominent members of the opposition.

Twelve opponents of Ortega have been detained since June 2, the AP notes.

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The arrests targeted dissidents of Ortega's Sandinista National Liberation Front political party, which overthrew the Nicaraguan government in 1979 and held onto political power until 1990. The Sandinista party regained power when Ortega was elected in 2007. He has held onto the office ever since.

Hugo Torres, a former Nicaraguan general and a Sandinista dissident, told the AP that Ortega has now moved beyond political candidates and is now eyeing political leaders.

“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,” Torres told the AP, saying that he had seen a drone flying around his home recently. “I am here, waiting for them to come for me.”

Torres was arrested hours after his interview with the AP.

Tamara Dávila, one of the opposition leaders who was arrested, was detained on charges relating to a new law that made support for sanctions against Ortega officials a form of treason. Treason is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

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Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned four Nicaraguan officials including Ortega's daughter, Camila Antonia Ortega Murillo, for human rights abuses and efforts to undermine democracy.

A law passed in December gives Ortega's government the freedom to declare anyone a "terrorist," label them as coup-mongers, classify them as “traitors to the homeland” and ban them from running as political candidates.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Julie Chung called on the Organization of American States (OAS) to address Ortega's government, writing on Twitter that his "campaign of terror continues."

"Ortega-Murillo’s campaign of terror continues with more arbitrary arrests this weekend," Chung wrote. "OAS members must send a clear signal this week: enough repression. The region cannot stand by and wait to see who is next."