Nicaragua’s Sandinista government has denied entry to a delegation from the International Democrat Union.
The group of four Latin American and European parliamentarians headed by Venezuelan former governor Henrique Fernando Salas (right) and opposition congressmen Carlos Berrizbeitia was reportedly detained at Managua airport for three hours before being ordered to leave the country without explanation.
No reason was given by immigration officials for the prolonged detention in a room without chairs, except for “orders from above,” said an IDU source:
After three hours at the airport the IDU representatives were brusquely told that they had been denied entry to Nicaragua and forcibly escorted to the airplane by a large number of military and police who showed increasingly aggressive behavior towards the delegation – one of them stating that “those not supporting the Venezuelan government are not welcome in this country.”
“Police ordered us to leave the country. They have not given us our passports back,” Salas said on Twitter. “In my condition as deputy president of the International Democratic Union this is an unacceptable abuse and this weakens democracy.” “Who ordered banning access of the International Democratic Union to Nicaragua? (…) Could it be because they do not want we talk about the election in Venezuela?”
The incident follows the similarly unexplained recent deportation of Hector Retamal, a photojournalist with Agence France Presse.
Congressman Eduardo Montealegre, political coordinator of Independent Liberal Party, condemned the act as “another abuse by the government of Daniel Ortega, who is showing clearly that ALBA is nothing more than an association of authoritarian governments that offer each other mutual support in their repression of the opposition.”
The Sandinistas’ refusal to allow the Venezuelan delegation to enter the country is a clear indication that “the government of Ortega is just a puppet of Venezuela’s illegitimate President Nicolás Maduro, who is giving Ortega orders from Venezuela.”
Nicaragua is only Partly Free, according to Freedom House which groups the regime with similar “left-populist governments” in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua. They stand apart from “most countries in the region [which] opted for social democratic models that included adherence to democratic norms, broad civil liberties, and market-based economies,” it notes in its 2013 Freedom in the World report.
The purpose of the visit was to assess democratic development in Nicaragua and meet with its member party, the Partido Conservador. The schedule included meetings with representatives of several political parties, media and other members of civil society, without intruding on domestic political affairs, said the IDU. A meeting with the country’s election commission had also been requested, but remained unanswered.
Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega may have been determined to avoid further aggravation in an already vexed week, one observer suggests.
“It’s been a bad month for Latin American autocrats,” Latin America analyst Mac Margolis writes for The Daily Beast:
Earlier this month, onetime Guatemalan Generalissimo Efraín Rios Montt was found guilty of genocide and sentenced to 80 years in prison for his role in the Central American Cold War. Last week, Argentine dirty warrior Jorge Rafael Videla, who presided over the bloodiest period of the 1976–1983 dictatorship died behind bars in Buenos Aires. And such was the disarray of Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela that the autocrat’s successor Nicolas Maduro was left to explain why this oil-rich nation of 28 million is running short of food and toilet paper.
Now Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is facing a hell all his own. The trouble comes not from imperialist gringos, palace rivals, or hanging judges, but Ortega’s own stepdaughter, who claims that the Sandinista supremo began abusing her sexually when she was 11 years old. Now 45 and a mother of three, Zoilamérica Ortega Murillo also alleges that her stepfather is behind a campaign to silence her that is so vindictive and intense it amounts to a “civic death.”