Nicaragua arrests 7th presidential contender in Nov. 7 vote

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FILE - In this June 17, 2021 file photo, a billboard promoting President Daniel Ortega and his wife and Vice President Rosario Murillo covers a truck driving through Managua, Nicaragua. The U.S. State Department announced Monday, July 12, 2021 it is revoking the travel visas of 100 legislators, judges and prosecutors who aided the regime of President Daniel Ortega. (AP Photo/Miguel Andres, File)

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — Nicaraguan police placed under house arrest a seventh presidential contender on Saturday, meaning that almost all of those who could have challenged President Daniel Ortega in the Nov. 7 elections have now been detained.

Opposition leader Noel Vidaurre was placed under police custody at his home on Saturday, as was political commentator Jaime Arellano. Arellano had been called in for questioning regarding a commentary he wrote criticizing an Ortega speech.

Vidaurre was one of the potential presidential candidates of the Citizens for Liberty alliance. The conservative alliance announced it had chosen as its candidate Oscar Sovalbarro, a leader of the U.S.-supported “Contra” insurgency that fought the Sandinistas in the 1980s. It was not clear if Sovalbarro had accepted the nomination.

Half a dozen other potential candidates have been arrested in a crackdown that began almost two months ago. Almost two dozen other journalists and opposition activists have also been detained.

Almost all were arrested under “treason” laws that Ortega has used against political rivals. Most face vague allegations of crimes against the state. Ortega alleges the country's April 2018 street protests were part of an organized coup attempt with foreign backing.

Another potential candidate, Cristiana Chamorro, is also under house arrest.

Most of those arrested in a crackdown that began in late May are being held incommunicado, at undisclosed locations with no access to lawyers or family visits.

They include Medardo Mairena, Félix Maradiaga and Miguel Mora.

Potential candidates Juan Sebastián Chamorro and Arturo Cruz were also arrested. Candidates must register by Aug. 2.

Lesther Alemán — a former student leader who returned to Nicaragua after exile but stayed in safe houses — has also been detained.

And several of the leading Sandinista revolutionaries who fought alongside Ortega in 1979 have also been jailed by him.

Those currently under arrest include 65-year-old Dora María Téllez, a former guerrilla commander who later split with Ortega and became a leader of the Sandinista Renovation Movement. Another jailed former Sandinista guerrilla and Renovation Movement leader, Hugo Torres, is 73.

Another is Víctor Hugo Tinoco, the leader of the political movement Unamos, is a former assistant foreign minister and former ambassador to the United Nations.

Ortega, 75, is seeking a fourth consecutive term in Nov. 7 elections.

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