The leader of the increasingly repressive regime said that the bishops had engaged in a coup attempt.
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In the latest sign that the government of Nicaragua has taken an increasingly repressive turn, President Daniel Ortega on Monday lashed out at Catholic bishops, calling them “terrorists,” reported the Associated Press.
According to the report, Ortega was referring to protests in 2018 that he says were orchestrated in part by the bishops who served as mediators in negotiations between the government and the opposition.
“The bishops signed that in the name of the terrorists, at the service of the Yankees … these bishops are also terrorists,” he said. “In any other country in the world they would be on trial.”
Ahead of the general elections to be held on November 7, Ortega has arrested more than 150 members of the political opposition, including presidential candidates.
Since May, the Nicaraguan government arrested and jailed five opposition candidates for president, Christiana Zamoro, Arturo Cruz, Felix Maradiga, Juan Sebastian Zamoro, Miguel Mora. Two others, Merto Marina and Noel Vitare, were arrested and placed under house arrest.
Last week, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and a bipartisan coalition of 15 US Senators called for the Biden Administration to put increased pressure on Ortega for his actions.
In a letter addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken they wrote:
“The international community must take urgent actions to stem one of the most severe campaigns of repression in the Western Hemisphere since the military dictatorships of the 1980s. In the months ahead, democratic actors in Nicaragua will require robust support from the United States and international partners as they seek a peaceful return to democracy.”
Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007. He was formerly a leader in the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front and served as president from 1985 to 1990.
His second stint in office has been increasingly repressive. A violent crackdown on political protests in 2018 led approximately 30,000 Nicaraguans to request asylum in neighboring Costa Rica.
In August 2021, Ortega shut down non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the country, and more Nicaraguans, including opposition leaders and journalists, fled the country.