LatinNews Daily - 14 March 2022

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NICARAGUA: High profile opposition leader convicted

On 11 March a Nicaraguan judge convicted Cristiana Chamorro, a potential November 2021 presidential contender, of money laundering and other crimes.


Arrested in June 2021, Chamorro, who is the daughter of former president Violeta Chamorro (1990-1997), was the favourite to beat President Daniel Ortega in the election which produced a victory for Ortega but was widely condemned as a ‘sham’. She was the first to be detained in the crackdown targeting opposition leaders ahead of the vote and is the last of the seven presidential pre-candidates to be convicted. Her conviction will exacerbate existing international criticism of the Ortega government over the trials and convictions of opposition figures, which has already produced condemnation from the Organization of American States (OAS) and United Nations as well as more US sanctions.

  • The charges relate to Chamorro’s former stint as head of the local NGO Fundación Violeta Barrios Chamorro (FVBC). A handful of others were also convicted on 11 March in relation to the same case, including her brother, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, a former legislator for the opposition Partido Liberal Independiente (PLI).
  • According to local human rights NGO Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (Cenidh), those convicted are expected to receive prison sentences of between eight and 13 years.
  • The convictions come amid more signs of Nicaragua’s increasing tensions with the foreign community and isolation. On 12 March the Vatican revealed that the Ortega government had expelled Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, Apostolic Nuncio in Managua, describing the move as “grave and unjustified”. Sommertag had been in Nicaragua since 2018 as a mediator following the crisis stemming from the social unrest which prompted a crackdown by the Ortega government on its opponents. The government has made no statement regarding his departure.
  • On 10 March Nicaragua recalled its ambassador to Spain, Carlos Midence, citing “continued pressure and threats of interference” by Spain without providing details. In August 2021 Spain announced it was recalling its ambassador to Nicaragua María del Mar Fernández-Palacios after the Ortega government accused Madrid of “unacceptable interference” among other things. The same month Nicaragua recalled its ambassadors to Mexico, Argentina, Colombia and Costa Rica following similar moves by those countries.

Looking Ahead: The latest rulings will be met with international concern; US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Brian Nichols already described them in a 12 March tweet as a “grave injustice”.

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