The United States on Tuesday accused Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega of becoming Anastasio Somoza, “the dictator he fought against” decades ago, by condemning what it defined as an “attack on the free press” in that Central American country.
“Despite the international community’s call for free and fair elections, Daniel Ortega is doubling down on repression and refusing to honor the democratic aspirations of the Nicaraguan people,” said the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, in a statement.
Pompeo questioned what he defined as “intensified attacks” against political opponents and independent media in Nicaragua, seeing them as proof that Ortega and his wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo, are seeking to extend their mandate.
“In this regard, Ortega has become the dictator he fought against so long ago,” Pompeo said.
Ortega, in power since 2007 and reelected via a questioned vote in 2016, was one of the leaders of the fight against the Somoza dictatorship (1936-1979), but has been accused of establishing a corrupt and nepotist dynasty with Murillo, his vice president since 2017.
“Ortega’s actions remind us of a previous dark period in Nicaraguan history, when the assassination of a respected journalist showed the world the nature of the Somoza dictatorship,” Pompeo added.
The U.S. head of diplomacy said Ortega “lashes out at critics, imprisons pro-democracy activists, and tramples human rights,” and has “lost legitimacy with the Nicaraguan people and the international community.”
TV Channel 12 in Nicaragua, critic of Ortega, denounced on Saturday the seizure of the company’s assets under an “arbitrary” tax dispute of more than $600,000.
That channel criticized and documented the repression of the protests against Ortega, which shook the country in 2018, leaving 328 dead and hundreds imprisoned, according to humanitarian groups.
At least 20 communication outlets in Nicaragua have been closed since 2014 by the Ortega government, according to the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (Cosep) of that country.