In addition to arresting in the past two months almost every opposition politician who might challenge President Daniel Ortega's quest for another term in office in the upcoming November 7 elections, the Nicaraguan regime this weekend raided the La Prensa newsdesk and placed its general manager in detention.
Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro was held by the authorities Saturday for the alleged crimes of customs fraud and money laundering, among other charges. La Prensa stopped circulating Friday.
Holmann joined some thirty opposition leaders and independent professionals arrested since May, including seven presidential hopefuls.
Hours before reporting on Holmann's arrest, the National Police reinforced their presence with anti-riot agents at the headquarters of the influential newspaper La Prensa, which had already had its electricity supply, internet connection and servers cut off, according to its workers.
Before learning of Holmann's arrest, various activists, as well as national and international human rights organizations, expressed their concern about the case of La Prensa, which stopped circulating on Friday.
Among those raising their voices were the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR); The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR); the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro; the special representative of the European Union for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore; the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation and the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh).
La Prensa was founded in 1926 and played a prominent role in the fight against the Somoza dictatorship in which its publisher Pedro Joaquín. Chamorro Cardenal (1924-1978) lost his life and is considered to be a national hero. His widow Violeta Barrios de Chamorro defeated Ortega in the 1990 presidential elections.
On Friday, Nicaraguan police raided the La Prensa building and has mounted guard around it ever since.
The 75-year-old Ortega of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) accuses his opponents of treason and of promoting sanctions against the country. His government has been sanctioned by the United States and the European Union for violating human rights and for crushing demonstrations against him since the 2018 protests.
One day before being seized by the government, La Prensa had reported that the actions carried out bu the “Ortega dictatorship” had left them with no paper on which to print their daily publication, while pro-government social media accounts showed photos of the newspaper's warehouse allegedly proving there was abundant material to print. La Prensa staff claimed that the number of reels of paper was not enough to print one edition.
A similar situation has already terminated the appearance of the newspaper Nuevo Diario in September 2019, also after denouncing a blockade on the import of paper at customs.
Union sources estimate that at least 20 independent media have disappeared due to seizures or similar measures under the the Ortega government.