The leader of a group of opposition Nicaraguan exiles was shot and critically wounded in Costa Rica, family members and campaigners said Sunday.
Joao Maldonado, 34, one of the founders of the Nicaraguan Exile Unit (UEN), has lived in Costa Rica since 2018, when he fled Nicaragua alongside thousands of fellow activists after participating in protests against the leftist government of President Daniel Ortega.
“I had the opportunity to see him now (Sunday afternoon), but he is sedated. He is stable but critical,” his wife told a virtual session of the UEN on Facebook.
Close friends said Maldonado was shot in a town on the outskirts of the capital San José, where he was traveling with his boss in a car.
“They were approached by two men on a motorcycle. One of them got out, drew a gun and began to shoot at Joao Maldonado… four of those shots hit Joao, two of them in the left arm, another of them in the thorax and, if I remember correctly, on the side,” Marlon Medina, a UEN member, told the meeting.
“It is incredible to see the fury with which (the shooter) shot him,” said Antonio Escalante, also a member of the UEN, who was traveling with Maldonado in the car. “The attack was directed at him, that’s for sure.”
Costa Rican authorities are on the trail of the two shooters, but their motive is unclear, the Judicial Investigation Agency said.
The attack comes amid deepening political repression in neighboring Nicaragua, where more than 34 opposition figures have been detained in recent months.
Among them are seven presidential hopefuls for upcoming presidential elections, in which Ortega is seeking a fourth consecutive term in office.
Last month the head of Nicaragua’s main opposition party said she had left the country for Costa Rica, fearing she would also be detained.
“We will not give in to fear and inaction,” the UEN said in a statement following Maldonado’s shooting.
“We will continue working for the justice and democratization of Nicaragua.”
The featured photo shows the large anti-government protests in Nicaragua that occurred in August 2018.