Nicaragua is “one of the worst dictatorships in the world” with its President Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo preparing “fake elections” to stay in power, the EU’s foreign policy chief said Monday.
Josep Borrell made the blunt criticism in a news conference following a meeting of EU foreign ministers that discussed the situation in the Central American country, which is to hold general elections on November 7.
“In Nicaragua the repression and the authoritarian drift is more than a worry, it is unacceptable,” Borrell said.
He accused Ortega and Murillo — who holds the post of vice president — of having “eliminated the political opposition” by jailing rivals, thus “ensuring their victory at the polls”.
The crackdown on opposition figures and demonstrators has been going on since 2018, when anti-government protests were violently put down. Ortega said he was the target of an attempted, US-led coup.
“Since 2018, the violent suppression has left at least 328 people dead on the street. Can you imagine, 328 being killed?” Borrell said.
Ortega’s regime has locked up 37 opposition figures, including seven who sought to run for president, accusing them of “treason” or money-laundering. More than 100,000 people have fled to exile abroad.
The EU imposed sanctions in August on Murillo and one of Ortega’s sons, along with other officials, over the repression of opponents.
Ortega, 75, is seeking a fourth consecutive term in the November vote despite international condemnation. Murillo, 70, is again his running mate.
They will be up against candidates from five little-known right-wing parties — the only ones cleared to participate by the government electoral body.
The electoral authority has also banned gatherings of more than 200 people, citing fears they could spread the coronavirus.