Every day, a patrol stops near his house. Six police officers line up conspicuously in front of his windows, take pictures, then leave. Paulo is not the real name of this fifty-something who lives in a small town near Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. Stressed, tired, a little depressed, Paulo pays dearly for his opposition to the regime of President Daniel Ortega, which is heading towards a third re-election on Sunday, November 7. A ballot without a competitor for the former Sandinista guerrilla and his wife, Rosario Murillo, who has become his vice-president. Seven candidates were arrested, all opposition parties dissolved. The steamroller of repression has knocked out the popular revolt which has demanded, for more than three years, the departure of the presidential couple.
In prison, cloistered at home or in exile, opponents hope for massive abstention and call for help from the international community. “I always wonder if they are coming to arrest me”, worries Paulo, who is an activist within the Blue and White National Unit (UNAB) federating part of the protest movements. Carried by the students, the spontaneous and peaceful uprising had won, in April 2018, all social strata of this small country (6.6 million inhabitants) of Central America. The repression was fierce: 328 dead, nearly 2,000 wounded and more than 1,600 prisoners. Since then, any gathering has been prevented by omnipresent police.
Six of the seven opposition presidential candidates imprisoned this summer are targeted by a freedom-killing law passed at the end of 2020 by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which has a majority in the Assembly. Called “guillotine law”, the text accuses them of “Betrayal to the fatherland”. The seventh candidate is none other than Cristiana Chamorro, daughter of Violeta Chamorro, former president (1990-1997) who had defeated Mr. Ortega in power from 1979 to 1990, then from 2007 to today. Accused of “Money laundering” through the foundation for press freedom which bears the name of his mother, Mr.me Chamorro has been under house arrest since June 2, prevented from participating in the ballot.
This wave of pre-election arrests hit 32 other political opponents, defenders of freedoms and journalists, who joined behind bars a hundred political prisoners. “They are being tortured”, denounces Ana Lucia Davila, sister of one of the leaders of the UNAB reduced to isolation, malnourished, questioned every day.
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In Nicaragua, an election against a backdrop of repression