Tue, Oct 14, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Nicaragua police raids of NGOs provoke outcry

AP , MANAGUA

Police raids of two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) critical of Nicaragua’s leftist government provoked an outcry on Sunday from opposition leaders who called them a throwback to dictatorship.

National Police broke down the doors of the two offices on Friday night and Saturday morning and seized documents and computers. A judge ordered the raids as part of an investigation against the two groups for “crimes against the state,” prosecutor Jose Abraham Rojas told reporters.

The Center of Media Investigations (Cinco) and the Autonomous Movement for Women are one of 16 groups being investigated for money laundering. Critics have called the investigations an attempt to silence dissent.

The government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is “imposing a new dictatorship,” said former president Arnoldo Aleman, who has been convicted of money laundering and embezzlement during his 1998-2002 presidency but is free on parole.

“Abuses against opponents to the Sandinista government are increasing and intensifying,” Aleman said. “It’s one thing to regulate non-governmental organizations and it’s another to persecute them for political reasons.”

Eduardo Montealegre, who lost the 2006 presidential election to Ortega, and two prominent business associations also condemned the raids. The Superior Chamber of Private Businesses and the American Chamber of Commerce said the actions recalled the repressive tactics of the 40-year dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza, whom Ortega’s Sandinista rebels overthrew.

The Department of Information did not return a request for comment on Sunday. Edwin Castro, a congressional leader of Ortega’s Sandinista party, hung up on a reporter seeking comment.

Cinco is led by Carlos Fernando Chamorro, the son of former president Violeta Chamorro and Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, the editor of the La Prensa newspaper killed in 1978 during the Somoza dictatorship. Many consider that assassination the catalyst for the final phase of the revolution that toppled Somoza a year later and brought Ortega’s first Sandinista government to power.

Ortega has insisted that his government fully respects press freedoms.

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