Nicaraguan police on Friday raided the opposition newspaper La Prensa amid a wave of arrests of critics and rivals of the president and candidate for re-election, Daniel Ortega, less than three months before the elections.
According to National Police, the directors of the newspaper are being investigated for “customs fraud and money laundering,” a day after the media outlet suspended its printed circulation. The premises are now in the custody of police.
Since June, the government has ordered the arrest of 32 opponents. They include seven possible rival candidates of President Ortega, in power since 2007, who will run with the former leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) for a fourth consecutive term on November 7.
Ortega, 75, accuses opponents of treason and other crimes against the country. His government has been sanctioned by the United States and the European Union, which accuse him of violating human rights and for repressing his critics since the outbreak of demonstrations against him in 2018.
Friday, police patrols entered the newspaper’s premises around noon, where staff from the newspaper were present. La Prensa had stopped circulating in print but announced that it would maintain its digital platforms.
During the raid, journalists from the newspaper denounced that internet access was cut, as was electricity, and web servers were shut down. Workers inside the building were prevented from using their cell phones.
Media related to the government published on their social networks photos of the newspaper’s warehouse where they assure that there is abundant material to continue its printing work, despite the fact that La Prensa had denounced a “kidnapping” of its raw material by the customs service.
“In the warehouses of the newspaper La Prensa there is abundant paper available so that said company can continue printing its newspaper,” said Channel 4, a government-affiliated medium, on its social networks.
However, newspaper staff claimed that the amount of paper, which they estimated at about 14 reels, was not enough to print a single edition.
The newspaper La Prensa, with 95 years of existence, is a harsh critic of the government. This marks the second time that it ha suspended its print edition after a similar occurrence in 2019.
El Nuevo Diario, also of national circulation, suspended operations in September 2019, also following complaints of customs blocking the importation of raw materials.