Nicaraguan police detained opposition presidential hopeful Arturo Cruz on Saturday and charged him with “conspiring against Nicaraguan society.” Cruz is the second opposition politician to be detained in less than a week as President Daniel Ortega seeks to maintain power leading up to the November presidential election.
Cruz was a former ally to Ortega and served as the ambassador to the US for Ortega from 2007 to 2009. Currently, Cruz is a candidate in the November election for the Alianza Ciudadana party, which is a coalition of right-wing parties. Ortega has been president since 2007 and is running for reelection. Ortega is a member of the leftist political party Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN).
Cruz was detained at Managua airport on Saturday upon his return from Washington, DC. The Nicaraguan Attorney General’s Office explained that there is “strong evidence that [Cruz] had conspired against Nicaraguan society and the rights of Nicaraguan people.”
Luis Almagro, the secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS), argued that Cruz should be released. Almagro tweeted that “manipulating security forces and the judiciary to imprison opposition candidates is unacceptable … these actions are contrary to free and fair elections.”
On Wednesday, Nicaraguan police detained opposition presidential candidate Cristiana Chamorro. Police broke into Chamorro’s home and placed her under house arrest for alleged money laundering.
International organizations assert that Ortega’s government’s allegations against opposition presidential hopefuls are fabricated and false. A senior US State Department official argued that Cruz’s and Chamorro’s arrests result from Ortega’s fear that he will not be reelected in November. The US official stated that the US, EU and countries in the Americas will work together to obtain the release of Cruz and Chamorro.