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Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega Justifies Removing Nationality of Critics

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega on Wednesday justified stripping 317 opponents and critics of his government of their Nicaraguan nationality a year ago and sending them into exile, accusing them of being “traitors” and “sellouts to the homeland.”

At an event commemorating the 90th anniversary of the assassination of General Augusto César Sandino, a nationalist hero, Ortega called those opponents “traitors, sellouts to the homeland, stateless” who “wanted to dismantle this country” in 2018, during protests against his government that left over 300 dead.

Ortega compared the exiled opponents to early 20th century former presidents Adolfo Díaz and Emiliano Chamorro, who favored the United States’ occupation of Nicaragua (1912-1933) that Sandino fought against.

“They stopped being Nicaraguans (Díaz and Chamorro), like those who have stopped being Nicaraguans and are now in the United States and are now ‘Yankees,’ they must feel very happy to be ‘Yankees,’ others are in Spain, they feel Spanish, very happy to be Spanish, they must even speak like Spaniards now, for sure,” he said.

“That’s how it is, it’s a basic principle: he who betrays his homeland stops being from that country, stops having a homeland and that’s why those who betray their homeland are called stateless,” said Ortega, a former guerrilla fighter in the insurrection that overthrew dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979.

In February 2023, Ortega’s government released and expelled a group of 222 jailed opponents to the United States and Spain after stripping them of their nationality and assets. It also did the same to another group of 94 activists, lawyers and media owners.

A bishop, Monsignor Rolando Álvarez, was also jailed and stripped of his nationality in 2023, but he preferred jail to exile. Last January he was released, along with 16 other priests and two seminarians, and sent to Rome under an agreement with the Vatican.

Spain took in and granted citizenship to renowned Nicaraguan writers Sergio Ramírez and Gioconda Belli, who participated in the popular insurrection against Somoza and today are staunch critics of Ortega.

U.N. human rights bodies, the United States, the European Union (EU) and other countries have condemned stripping opponents of their nationality.

The United States and the EU imposed sanctions on Ortega’s government. Now 78, he has ruled the country since 2007 with his wife Rosario Murillo as leader of the former Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) guerrilla.

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