Nicaraguan opposition activists detained as crackdown escalates

University leader Lesther Aleman speaks at a press conference at Citizens for Freedom (CXL) party headquarters in Managua, Nicaragua, June 09, 2021

Student leader Lesther Alemán played key role in 2018 anti-government protests

Nicaraguan police arrested two student activists and four members of the Farmers’ Movement in their latest crackdown on the opposition.

Among those arrested on Monday evening was Medardo Mairena, who was considering running for the Nicaraguan presidency.

His arrest brings the number of presidential candidates detained since early June to six.

President Daniel Ortega is expected to run for a fourth consecutive term in the November presidential election.

Police have not yet clarified on what grounds or charges the activists were arrested on Monday.

The Nicaraguan University Alliance (AUN) student group said two of its leaders, Lésther Alemán and Max Jerez, had been arrested.

Max Jerez tweeted as police entered the house where he was staying, claiming that “neither crackdown nor prison will stop the strength of the Nicaraguan people.”

AUN then uploaded a video Mr. Jerez recorded before his arrest in which he told Nicaraguans “not to despair or become paralyzed.”

Students were at the forefront of the anti-government protests that rocked Nicaragua in 2018, and student leaders remained fierce criticisms of the government led by President Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.

In his video, Jerez encouraged Nicaraguans to “continue together to defeat the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo”.

“Not a traitor”

Student activist Lesther Alemán also appeared in a provocative video in which he said he was ready to go to jail and even die for his cause.

Referring to the controversial treason law under which more than a dozen influential opposition figures were arrested, he stressed: “I am not a traitor to my country, I never have anything made against the Nicaraguans “.

Under the law, which was passed in December by pro-government lawmakers, anyone identified as a traitor can be sent to jail for 15 years.

The government maintains that the law protects Nicaragua against “putschists” funded by “imperial powers” to overthrow President Ortega.

But his critics say the government is using him as a tool to target anyone who might run against him in elections, as anyone seen as a traitor is barred from running for political office.

farmers' The leaders of the movement Medardo Mairena, Pedro Mena and Freddy Navas celebrate their release on June 11, 2019 in Managua

Medardo Mairena (left), Pedro Mena (center) and Freddy Navas (right) as well as Pablo Morales were arrested on Monday

With the arrest of Medardo Mairena, there are now six presidential candidates in detention:

  • Medardo Mairena, leader of the Peasant Movement

  • Miguel Mora, opposition journalist

  • Juan Sebastián Chamorro, economist

  • Cristiana Chamorro, daughter of ex-president Violeta Chamorro

  • Arturo Cruz, former ambassador

Besides Mr. Mairena, three other members of the Farmers’ Movement were arrested on Monday.

Like student activists, members of the Farmers’ Movement were among those targeted during the 2018 anti-government protests.

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