The United States called Friday for Nicaragua to “immediately release” opposition leader Cristiana Chamorro, two days after she was placed under house arrest on government claims of money-laundering.
The detention of Chamorro and two of her colleagues “on trumped up charges is an abuse of their rights, and it represents an assault on democratic values as well as a clear attempt to thwart free and fair elections,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
“The current conditions of repression and exclusion are not consistent with credible elections. The region and the international community must stand together with the Nicaraguan people in support of their right to freely choose their government.”
And the acting undersecretary at the Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Julie Chung also called for Chamorro’s release.
“We’re very concerned about the grave situation in Nicaragua,” she told reporters.
Chamorro is a 67-year-old journalist not aligned to any party. A recent poll showed her to be the favorite to beat President Daniel Ortega in a November presidential election, just as her mother Violeta Barrios de Chamorro did in 1990.
But the opposition’s rising star has for weeks been the subject of a judicial investigation into money-laundering, which she has denounced as a “macabre farce” set up by the current authorities to prevent her from standing as a candidate on November 7.
On Wednesday, Nicaraguan police raided Chamorro’s house in the capital Managua and then placed her under house arrest.
Shortly before officers entered her home, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced the Ortega government’s moves against Chamorro and said the Central American country deserved “real democracy.”
“Arbitrarily banning opposition leader @chamorrocris reflects Ortega’s fear of free and fair elections. Nicaraguans deserve real democracy,” tweeted Blinken, on a visit to Latin America.
Costa Rica condemns arrest
The Costa Rican Foreign Ministry released the following statement after Chamorro was placed on house arrest:
Costa Rica condemns the actions taken in Nicaragua against the political opposition, and reiterates the importance of respecting political pluralism and freedom of expression.
Costa Rica expresses its deep concern over the actions taken against Cristiana Chamorro Barrios.
Likewise, we call for a stop to the measures that not only compromise the civic and democratic space, but also create a distance from fair, free, credible and inclusive elections.