Nicaraguan police have arrested a top banking executive as a clampdown on opposition figures and would-be challengers to long-term leader Daniel Ortega tightened ahead of November presidential elections.
Luis Rivas Anduray, executive president of the private Banco de la Produccion (Banpro) — one of Nicaragua’s largest — was arrested Tuesday for “inciting foreign interference,” a police statement said.
His arrest is the latest under a law initiated by Ortega’s government and approved by parliament in December to defend Nicaragua’s “sovereignty.” It is criticized by opponents and rights bodies as a means of freezing out political challengers.
Rivas, also the operations director of the Grupo Promerica — a conglomerate of central American financial institutions — is the 14th person to be arrested in a roundup that started early this month.
Of the detainees, four had declared they would stand in the November elections, in which Ortega is widely expected to also run.
According to the police statement, Rivas is under investigation for “proposing and managing blockades of economic, commercial and financial operations” and for backing sanctions against Nicaragua.
Banpro said in a statement that it operated in adherence with Nicaraguan laws, and was “confident” that Rivas’s “situation will be clarified.”
His arrest is the second of a business figure under the new law. Jose Adan Aguerri, head of the CCIE business federation, was detained on similar charges last week.
Nicaragua has come under fire internationally for the campaign, which began on June 2 when Cristiana Chamorro, the daughter of former president Violeta Barrios de Chamorro was ordered held in house arrest.
The older Chamorro had beaten Ortega in presidential elections in 1990.
The Organization of American States on Tuesday adopted a resolution calling on Nicaragua to “immediately release” those arrested “in the current wave of repression.”
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed the resolution which he said concluded that conditions for free and fair elections “do not exist.”
“It is time for the Ortega-Murillo regime to change course… and allow the Nicaraguan people to fully exercise their rights — including their right to choose their leaders in free and fair elections,” he said in a statement.
Rosario Murillo is Ortega’s wife and Nicaragua’s vice president.
The government in Managua on Tuesday defended the arrests of opposition figures it said were “usurpers” funded by the United States to topple Ortega.
Ortega governed Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990, then returned to power in 2007. He has won two successive reelections since then.
Now 75, he is accused by the opposition and NGOs of increasing authoritarianism.