The upcoming election in Nicaragua “has lost all credibility”, the United States has said, amid a string of arrests of presidential hopefuls and the disqualification of the main opposition party set to challenge President Daniel Ortega in the November polls.
In a statement on Saturday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the move to disqualify the Citizens Alliance for Liberty (CXL) demonstrates that Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, have a “desire to remain in power at all costs”.
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“The United States views the regime’s latest undemocratic, authoritarian actions – driven by Ortega’s fear of an electoral loss – as the final blow against Nicaragua’s prospects for a free and fair election later this year,” the statement reads.
“That electoral process, including its eventual results, has lost all credibility.”
Dozens of opposition leaders and presidential contenders have been detained since early June in Nicaragua as the government rounded up individuals it accused of planning a coup against Ortega.
But human rights groups and international observers have accused the longtime leader of increasing authoritarianism and seeking to clear the way of potential opponents in his bid to secure a fourth consecutive term as president in the November 7 elections.
Seven presidential hopefuls are among those detained in recent weeks.
Ortega’s Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) party confirmed last week that the 75-year-old would seek re-election, with Murillo as his running mate again.
The wave of arrests has prompted the US and European Union to impose sanctions and visa restrictions on Nicaraguan officials in recent weeks as they seek to pressure the government to release the detainees and ensure free and fair elections can be held.
“The political situation in Nicaragua has further deteriorated in recent months,” the Council of the EU said in a statement this week, as it announced fresh sanctions against eight Nicaraguan government officials, including Murillo.
“The political use of the judicial system, the exclusion of candidates from the elections and the arbitrary delisting of opposition parties are contrary to basic democratic principles and constitute a serious violation of the rights of the Nicaraguan people.”
Ortega governed Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990 and returned to power in 2007, winning two successive re-election bids since then.