Activists and prominent members of Latin America’s left have condemned Nicaragua’s increasingly authoritarian regime under President Daniel Ortega after the former revolutionary hero stepped up his attack on political opponents by raiding some the country’s most important non-governmental organisations and media.
Since Thursday armed police have seized the headquarters of one of Nicaragua’s top independent media outlets Confidencial and its leading human rights group CENIDH – in the latest phase of a crackdown designed to cement Ortega’s grip on power after months of protests.
Pro-Ortega lawmakers last week stripped nine NGOs of their legal status with the government claiming the groups had ‘actively participated’ in terrorist acts – hate crimes and a failed coup attempt against Ortega’s Sandinista regime.
José Miguel Vivanco – Human Rights Watch’s Americas director – said that by attacking such well-known organisations Nicaragua’s president was making clear his intention ‘to rule by terror and intimidation’.
He said: ‘This is a deliberate decision by Ortega to stay in power through brutal repression.
There is no more facade of negotiation or of a democratic regime …
The policy being imposed … is zero tolerance to criticism’.
Shutting down such groups was ‘something we haven’t even seen in Venezuela under Nicolás Maduro’.
Nicaraguan human rights defender Bianca Jagger rejected claims the targeted groups were part of a rightwing US-backed conspiracy to topple Ortega as ‘a complete and total fallacy’.
‘He wants to eliminate any voice of dissent’ Jagger said of Nicaragua’s president – who became a flag-bearer for the global left thanks to his role in toppling the Somoza dictatorship in 1979.
‘As someone who supported the revolution in the beginning I feel betrayed’.
There was censure too from prominent Latin American leftists including Colombia’s Gustavo Petro.
‘Daniel Ortega is not leading a democratic revolution’ tweeted the former guerrilla and mayor of Bogotá.
‘On the contrary – by imposing neoliberal and conservative measures on his people he is building a tyranny’.