BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s foreign policy chief said Monday that Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has crushed any prospect of free and fair elections in November by arresting dozens of opposition figures.
“The opposition has been eliminated. Nicaraguans are being deprived of the basic human and civil right to vote in a credible, inclusive and transparent election,” Josep Borrell said in a statement.
Nicaragua is scheduled to hold national elections Nov. 7. and Ortega is seeking a fourth consecutive term. He placed an opposition vice presidential candidate under house arrest last week, then released her pending the outcome of the investigation.
Borrell was further irked by last Friday’s decision to strip the last opposition party of its legal status.
He said that “President Ortega and (Vice President and first lady Rosario) Murillo must stop this autocratic spiral.”
Last week, the EU slapped sanctions on Murillo and seven other senior officials accused of serious human rights violations or undermining democracy. The sanctions include asset freezes and bans on travel in Europe.
Also last week, the United States slapped visa restrictions on 50 immediate family members of Nicaraguan officials who have been involved in or benefited from Ortega’s growing repression. The U.S. State Department said Friday the officials include lawmakers, prosecutors and judges.
Over the past two months, Ortega’s government has arrested nearly three dozen opposition figures, including seven potential challengers for the presidency.
On Monday in Managua, the opposition alliance National Coalition, said in a statement that it did not recognize the current the electoral process as a way out of Nicaragua’s political crisis and urged Nicaraguans to not recognize it either.
“From the National Coalition we do not support nor promote the citizens’ participation in the electoral farce that will only result in the perpetuation of Ortega and Murillo in power,” the statement said. The process “does not meet any of the requirements established by the national and international community to be considered legitimate and transparent.”
Later Monday, authorities announced the arrest of opposition leader Mauricio Díaz Dávila, a candidate for congress and a former ambassador to Costa Rica. He had been called to the Attorney General’s Office on Monday as part of an investigation for alleged acts against the state.
His political party, Citizens for Liberty, said he was arrested with violence. His ability to run for office had been cancelled by the electoral court three days earlier. Party President Kitty Monterrey, whose Nicaraguan citizenship was withdrawn last week, called for his immediate release.
Murillo also announced Monday that the government had recalled its ambassadors from Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Costa Rica “in reciprocity” for steps taken by those governments. She declared recent criticism from those governments as “interfering and interventionist.”
Argentina and Mexico had offered to try to mediate negotiations between the government and opposition, but that offer was rejected by Ortega. Costa Rica and Colombia had strongly condemned Ortega’s government for recent actions against the opposition.
“They have assumed function that no one has given them, in open violation of international law, human rights and the shameful following along of the colonialist, imperialist and destructive powers,” Murillo said.