Spain is recalling its ambassador to Nicaragua after Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s government accused Madrid of “unacceptable interference” and historical crimes in the Central American nation.
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares made the decision after “serious and unfounded accusations were made against Spain and its institutions”, his ministry said in a statement on Wednesday, “as well as gross falsehoods about judicial and electoral processes”.
Ortega’s government sent a statement to Spain on Tuesday “denouncing cynical and continual meddling, interference and intervention in our internal affairs, inappropriate of democratic governments”.
It added that Spanish governments and institutions had overseen “cover-ups, lies, crimes, hate crimes and crimes against humanity” and “continually failed to comply with the rights of the peoples to autonomy or autonomous processes for independence”.
The withdrawal of the Spanish ambassador came a day after Nicaragua recalled its ambassadors to Mexico, Argentina, Colombia and Costa Rica in response to similar moves by those countries.
Ortega is facing mounting international pressure to account for a wave of arrests of opposition leaders and presidential hopefuls in the lead-up to presidential elections in November.
Dozens of opposition leaders and presidential contenders have been arrested since early June in Nicaragua as the government rounded up individuals it accused of planning a coup against Ortega.
Rights groups and international observers have accused the 75-year-old Sandinista leader of increasing authoritarianism, saying the wave of arrests aimed to clear the way for Ortega’s bid to secure a fourth consecutive term as president in the November 7 elections.
The European Union and the United States have imposed sanctions and visa restrictions on Nicaraguan government officials and their relatives in an effort to get the government to release the detainees and ensure that free and fair elections can be held.
Both the EU and US have accused Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, who also is the country’s vice president, of clinging to power at all costs – and condemned a recent decision to disqualify a right-wing opposition party seeking to challenge the pair at the polls.
The Nicaraguan “electoral process, including its eventual results, has lost all credibility“, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Saturday.
That was echoed by EU High Representative Josep Borrell, who said on Monday that the Ortega government has crushed “the prospects of a credible and legitimate electoral process”.
“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 in line with Nicaragua’s Constitution and international human rights laws and standards,” Borrell said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the head of Nicaragua’s Citizens Alliance for Liberty (CXL), the party disqualified last week from participating in the election, said on Tuesday that she had left the country for Costa Rica in fear that she would be arrested.
“Nobody is safe any more,” said Carmella Rogers, also known as Kitty Monterrey, in a televised interview with Telenoticias in Costa Rica, her first public appearance in several days. “[Staying] didn’t make sense, they were going to take me to jail or they were going to deport me.”