Nicaragua government opponent meets with prosecutors

·3 min read

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — Nicaraguan journalist Cristiana Chamorro, daughter of a former president and a potential challenger to President Daniel Ortega, met with authorities Friday regarding allegations of money laundering.

The previous day, national police raided the offices of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation for Reconciliation and Democracy, the nongovernmental organization named after her mother and led by Chamorro until recently, as well as the offices of the independent news outlet run by her brother Carlos Fernando Chamorro.

Cristiana Chamorro met with officials at the Interior Ministry Thursday and on Friday entered the public prosecutor’s offices. Her lawyer was not allowed to accompany her.

“I come with my head held high to defend Nicaraguans, because this is not an accusation against Cristiana Chamorro; it is an accusation against all Nicaraguans who want democracy and want a change in the system in the next elections,” she said, surrounded by journalists. Several political opposition leaders said Friday police kept them from leaving their homes to go support Chamorro.

The Nicaraguan government announced Thursday that Chamorro was under investigation for alleged financial irregularities and money laundering related to the foundation.

After her nearly three-hour meeting Friday, Chamorro said authorities had explained they were investigating, but gave no indication of how long that could last. Candidates have to register for the elections by Aug. 2.

“This is another act by the dictatorship against the people of Nicaragua, freedom of expression, human rights and public liberties,” she said. Chamorro denied the government's allegations and called for the political opposition to united behind a “single candidacy.” Ortega is “scared to death because united we are going to defeat the dictatorship in these elections,” she said sounding more like a potential candidate.

Cristiana Chamorro has not ruled out the possibility of running for president in the Nov. 7 elections. In January, she stepped down from her role at the foundation. A month later, it closed its operations in Nicaragua after passage of a “foreign agents” law that aimed to track foreign funding of organizations operating in the country.

She said the new accusations are Ortega’s attempt to keep her out of the race, in which he is seeking his fourth consecutive presidential term.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said via Twitter Friday: “Actions against (Cristiana Chamorro) and the Violeta Barrios Foundation as well as the arrests of journalists are another alarming step away from democracy in Nicaragua. Free and fair elections are undermined when independent media are under siege and opposition leaders can’t run.”

Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council and congress have been narrowing the space for maneuver for the country’s opposition. On Tuesday, the council cancelled the legal status of the Democratic Restoration Party, which was expected to potentially be a vehicle for an opposition coalition bid against Ortega.

Violeta Barrios de Chamorro beat Ortega to win the presidency in 1990 and served until 1997. Her husband Pedro Joaquin Chamorro ran La Prensa, his family newspaper, and was jailed and forced into exile multiple times before his assassination in 1978. Cristiana Chamorro is the vice president of La Prensa.

The killing of Chamorro, a noted critic of dictator Anastasio Somoza, galvanized opposition and propelled the Sandinista revolution led by Ortega that ended the dictatorship.

The Associated Press

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