Fri, Mar 15, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Nicaraguan opposition icon escapes to Costa Rica

‘MARATHON MAN’:The government and opposition were yesterday to resume talks, which were suspended on Friday as the opposition demanded goodwill gestures


A Nicaraguan man who became a prominent public face of opposition to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s government for his defiant protest runs through the capital has left the country for exile, his son said on Wednesday.

Byron Vanegas, Alex Vanegas’ son, confirmed said that his father, who came to be known as the “marathon man,” has gone to neighboring Costa Rica.

“He decided to leave the country because he could no longer stand the [police] siege and harassment,” Byron Vanegas said.

He had been detained repeatedly during the protests and in November last year was jailed for what turned out to be four months.

In an interview, Alex Vanegas, 62, told reporters that police patrols were constantly watching his home after he was conditionally released to house arrest late last month, along with about 100 others considered political prisoners, as talks resumed on Nicaragua’s political standoff.

Those people are not supposed to leave their homes, much less the country, but Byron Vanegas said that his father crossed into Costa Rica “somewhere along the border.”

He did not give further details.

“He always said that Ortega was not going to quiet him, that nobody was going to halt his struggle,” Byron Vanegas said. “So now he will continue protesting and running for Nicaragua” from exile.

Tens of thousands of Nicaraguans have fled to Costa Rica and other countries after protests demanding Ortega’s exit from office broke out last year and hundreds died in a crackdown by security forces.

Government officials have accused opposition demonstrators of being “coup plotters” and “terrorists.”

Rosario Murillo, Nicaragua’s powerful vice president and first lady, once said that Alex Vanegas was “making a fool of himself” and suggested that he was one of many “traitors.”

Also on Wednesday, the government and the Civic Alliance opposition coalition issued a statement saying they would resume talks yesterday.

The negotiations were suspended on Friday last week, after the Civic Alliance said that it would not participate until Ortega made “overwhelming gestures” of goodwill, including the immediate and definitive release of about 770 people considered to be political prisoners.

The two sides said that they held meetings earlier this week, at which the coalition expressed openness to resuming dialogue if the government made an effective commitment to release people still in detention. They gave no details.

According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, at least 325 people were killed, more than 2,000 wounded and hundreds detained in last year’s crackdown, which all but quashed the protests.

The government has since imposed a de facto ban on opposition demonstrations and shuttered some independent media outlets and non-governmental organizations. It has refused to concede early elections, a key opposition demand.

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