US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Wednesday said Nicaraguan President and former guerrilla leader Daniel Ortega was leading the Central American country “down the dark path of authoritarianism,” as most political opponents are arrested or charged with treason.
Blinken argued Nicaragua's Judicial branch was subservient to Ortega and has thus imprisoned opposition leaders who defend free and fair elections.
“The Government of President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo has led the country down the bleak path of authoritarianism, relying on a subsequent Judiciary, the usurpation of political parties, and the imprisonment of journalists, opposition leaders, and others who defend free and fair elections, Blinken said in a statement released through Washington's embassy in Managua.
Blinken also warned that “unfortunately, the alarming attacks against judicial independence, civil society and the press, as well as the separation of powers in other parts of Central America, imply the possibility that the peoples and economies of those nations also face a future with greater authoritarianism.”
In his statement, Blinken saluted Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua for celebrating the bicentennial of their independence, initially as a united Central America.
The United States is determined to work in partnership with the people of Central America to forge a more democratic, secure, more prosperous and inclusive future,” Blinken added.
Meanwhile, a report submitted Wednesday to the U.N. Human Rights Council blasts Ortega's regime for its harsh crackdown on opposition leaders ahead of the November 7 Presidential and Parliamentary elections.
In her latest update to the Council, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and former Chilean President Michele Bachelet said increasing restrictions by Nicaraguan authorities on peoples’ right to vote are undermining free and fair elections.
Bachelet insisted Nicaraguans should be able to exercise their right to vote without intimidation, violence, or administrative interference.
Her report documents the arbitrary detention of 16 people between June 22 and September 6, including political leaders, human rights defenders, businesspeople, journalists, as well as a peasant and student leaders.
She said these arrests are in addition to 20 other government opponents who have been detained since May 28.
“This group includes six men and one woman who have publicly stated that they were aspiring to the presidency…The large majority of these people remain deprived of their liberty and have been so for up to 90 days, being held incommunicado, some in isolation without any official confirmation as to their whereabouts from the authorities to their families,” Bachelet said.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office says most of the people detained are accused of conspiracy to undermine national integrity and other crimes linked to the implementation of cooperation funds.
Bachelet also said attacks on freedom of expression and against the media and journalists have intensified, while similar patterns of repression are being registered against human rights defenders, social and political leaders, among others.
“Given this deteriorating situation in Nicaragua, it is essential that the government once again guarantee the full enjoyment of civil and political rights of all Nicaraguans, that they put an end to persecution of the opposition, press, and civil society, and that they immediately and unconditionally release the over 130 persons detained since April 2018, according to civil society sources,” Bachelet pointed out.
The Nicaraguan government has consistently brushed off U.N. and international criticism, claiming it is based on disinformation from North American and European countries seeking to maintain their colonial grip on the country.