Another presidential candidate was on Saturday arrested in Nicaragua, police said — the seventh detained by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s government in the lead-up to elections on Nov. 7.
Noel Vidaurre was put under house arrest, accused of “undermining the sovereignty” of the country, in the latest of a series of arrests condemned by the US and EU.
Ortega is expected to seek a fourth consecutive presidential term in the elections.
Ortega, 75, would be the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front’s candidate for the presidential vote, Nicaraguan National Assembly President Gustavo Porras confirmed last week.
Seven opposition presidential hopefuls have been among 28 people detained by Ortega’s government.
In a clampdown that began on June 2, Ortega’s government has rounded up political rivals in a series of house raids and night-time arrests on charges of threatening Nicaragua’s “sovereignty.”
On Saturday, political commentator Jaime Arellano was also put under custody at his home.
US Acting Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Julie Chung wrote on Twitter that the two were “just the latest victims of a despicable campaign to criminalize peaceful opposition.”
The charges are rooted in a law initiated by Ortega and approved by lawmakers in December last year that has been widely criticized as a means of freezing out challengers and silencing opponents ahead of the election.
The law bars “those who ask for, celebrate and applaud the imposition of sanctions against the Nicaraguan state” from seeking public office.
Vidaurre, 66, was one potential candidate for the Alianza Ciudadanos por la Libertad group standing against Ortega.
Presidential candidates would be able to register from Wednesday to Aug. 2.
Ortega says the people rounded up by his forces are “criminals” seeking to overthrow him with US backing.
However, the clampdown has drawn international condemnation and fresh sanctions, with the US branding the long-term leader a “dictator.”
The EU has said it was “inconceivable” the November elections “will be anything remotely approaching a democratic competition.”
Cristiana Chamorro, former Nicaraguan president Violeta Barrios de Chamorro’s daughter and widely seen as the favorite to beat Ortega this year, was the first to be targeted and is now under house arrest on government claims of money laundering.
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