The head of Nicaragua’s opposition party Citizens Alliance for Liberty said Tuesday she had left the country for Costa Rica, fearing she would be added to the list of rival politicians arrested by President Daniel Ortega’s government.
“Nobody is safe anymore,” said Carmella Rogers, also known as Kitty Monterrey, in a televised interview with Telenoticias in Costa Rica — her first public appearance in several days.
“(Staying) didn’t make sense, they were going to take me to jail or they were going to deport me.”
Last week, officials canceled the CxL head’s national identity card and passport.
“I’ve been in hiding since Friday,” Monterrey said. “I was looking for a way out that had to be gradual to get here in a safe way. It was difficult and I’m tired, but here I am.”
The 71-year-old’s exile comes after her right-wing party on Friday was disqualified from standing in November’s election by the electoral court, which is dominated by the ruling party.
The party’s vice-presidential candidate Berenice Quezada had been placed under house arrest that week.
With three months to go before the country’s elections, Nicaragua’s government has detained 32 opposition politicians that they accused of treason.
Among them are seven potential candidates who could run against Ortega, who is seeking a fourth consecutive term.
The 75-year-old former guerilla first took office in 2007 as part of the left-wing Sandinista National Liberation Front.
His government faces sanctions from the United States and the European Union, which accuse him of humans rights violations and the repression of opposition figures, which began with anti-government protests in 2018.
Ortega accuses the opposition of trying to overthrow him with the support of the United States.
Despite her presence in Costa Rica, Monterrey, who has an American father and Nicaraguan mother, said: “I am never going to stop being Nicaraguan. I am going to continue to fight for Nicaragua, this does not end here.”
She will seek to legalize her stay in Costa Rica under her US citizenship.
“I think I will stay in Costa Rica if possible,” she said. “I want to be close to my country.”
Monterrey’s opponents blame her for blocking efforts by Nicaragua’s opposition parties and other social forces to mount a unified fight against Ortega.
“It’s not that we are divided, it’s that there have been different opinions,” said Monterrey, who has said the CxL is best-suited to lead the charge.
Even though it was clear the government “was committing fraud, we had to continue doing the impossible within the civic route,” she said.