Main Nicaraguan opposition party disqualified ahead of elections

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Managua (AFP)

Nicaragua’s electoral council on Friday disqualified the country’s main opposition party from upcoming presidential elections, in the latest move in growing political repression in the Central American country.

The Citizens for Liberty lead the Citizens Alliance for Liberty (CXL) bloc, which spearheads the opposition to the re-election of President Daniel Ortega in the November 7 election.

But the Supreme Electoral Council of the Central American country blocked the participation of the CXL by ordering “the cancellation of the legal status of the Citizens for Liberty party”, according to a court decision read in front of the official media by the secretary of the organization , Luis Luna.

The move is another step in a recent harsh political crackdown on the vote, with critics accusing Ortega’s government of trying to prevent any significant opposition from running in the November election.

Ortega, in power since 2007, is running for a fourth consecutive term with his wife, Vice-President Rosario Murillo, again as running mate.

The move came after the right-wing Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC) – which is the largest opposition party in parliament and indicated it would be willing to collaborate with the government – alleged that the CXL was in violation of the law.

The PLC text indicated that the CXL was headed by a dual US-Nicaraguan national and accused of “clearly violating the law”, asking the council to “declare null and void all activities of the CXL”.

The ruling party-linked electoral council also revoked the citizenship of CXL leader Carmella Rogers Amburn, known in the political arena as Kitty Monterrey.

The board said the CXL chairman “used irregular procedures” and “behaved outside the legal technical conditions and regulations for this type of political organization.”

CXL denounced Monterrey’s forfeiture of Nicaraguan nationality, leaving her with only American nationality and in a position where she could be deported.

“The regime’s actions show how much they fear the civic electoral route,” the bloc wrote on Twitter.

– ‘Restricted movement’ –

The move comes just days after CXL said its running mate was under house arrest without any justification.

The bloc said on Twitter that Berenice Quezada “has been informed by the judicial authorities and the prosecution that she is now under house arrest without access to telephone communications and with restricted movement”.

CXL president Kitty Monterey, pictured in July 2021, was stripped of her Nicaraguan nationality by the electoral council STR AFP / File

He added that the 27-year-old former beauty queen had been told she was “banned from running for public office” and had to stay at home in the capital Managua under police surveillance.

Quezada, who was Miss Nicaragua in 2017, was a surprise choice for CXL presidential candidate Oscar Sobalvarro.

The 68-year-old former right-wing guerrilla was chosen to run in the November elections only because five of the alliance’s presidential candidates were among at least 31 opposition figures, including seven potential presidential candidates, detained by the authorities over the past two months.

They are accused of treason and threat to the country’s sovereignty under a controversial law passed in December and widely denounced as a way to freeze challengers and silence opponents.

The Supreme Electoral Council has until August 9 to validate or reject the candidates proposed by the parties and alliances standing for election.

– International conviction –

With CXL out of the race, Ortega is on the verge of comfortably winning his re-election against five right-wing parties, described as “collaborators” by the opposition.

A former leftist guerrilla, Ortega also ruled Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990 when the United States supported the armed opposition to his Sandinista movement.

Ortega later rebranded himself as a pro-business pragmatist, but Western countries and the opposition say he is increasingly turning into a dictator as he seeks power.

The international community condemned the crackdown.

The United States on Friday denied visas to 50 other Nicaraguans linked to Ortega, expanding a July 12 announcement of visa restrictions to more than 100 people, including lawmakers and judges.

More than 30 officials and relatives of the Nicaraguan president have been hit with travel and financial restrictions by the United States, the European Union and Canada in the past three years.

Ortega downplayed the pressure and said Nicaragua had experienced “more difficult” situations, alluding to the politico-military conflict he faced with the United States during his first term.

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