MEXICO CITY – Four months before the scheduled municipal elections, Nicaragua’s riot police took control of five municipal halls that were in the hands of an opposition party.
Kitty Monterrey, president of Citizens for Freedom, a political party rejected by the Nicaraguan government ahead of last year’s presidential elections, confirmed the police occupation of San Sebastian de Yale, Elcoa, Mora and Elmendro.
Oscar Gadea Tinoco, mayor of Bantasma and a member of Citizens for Freedom, also said that his town was occupied by police on Saturday.
“All positions of legitimately elected mayor under the banner of Citizens for Liberty have been seized by the regime,” Monterrey said Monday via Twitter. She called on President Daniel Ortega to respect the welfare of the dismissed officials and mayors.
Citizens for Freedom won each of these city councils in the 2017 elections. But with presidential elections looming last year, President Daniel Ortega has shown little tolerance for dissent. The authorities arrested seven prominent opposition figures who could have challenged Ortega for the presidency.
Instead, Ortega ran for a fourth consecutive presidential term in elections that the United States and the European Union described as a farce, and opposition figures remain in detention.
The Nicaraguan government has not commented on the acquisitions.
Noel Moreno, the ousted mayor of San Sebastian de Yale in northwestern Nicaragua, said about 50 heavily armed riot police and members of the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Ortega entered city offices early Monday.
“The seat is still under the control of the riot police,” Moreno said, adding that he was not present when the police arrived. He wasn’t sure if the townspeople had stayed inside or had been moved.
He said that Sandinista Town Council members “appointed themselves mayor and deputy mayor” and raised the Sandinista flag. It appears that the acquisitions were similar in other municipalities.
At Pantasma, Gadea Tinoco said Sandinista Councilwoman Carmen Obando has been appointed as his replacement. The argument was that Citizens for Freedom was no longer a recognized entity because Nicaragua’s electoral authorities revoked its status last year.
After the concert was canceled, Monterrey was also stripped of her Nicaraguan citizenship and accused of being in the country illegally. She fled into exile in Costa Rica.
Of the 153 municipalities in Nicaragua, the FSLN now controls 140. Two allied parties control 13 other municipalities.
The opposition Open Ballot Boxes Organization, the Mwatana election monitoring network, denounced the “lack of democratic conditions”. They demanded that the welfare of municipal workers be respected.
“They don’t want anyone to take part in this election,” Moreno said.
In a statement, Monterrey called the acquisitions “a very serious attack against the popular will and autonomy of the municipalities.”
“With these measures, the regime confirms that it has no interest in rehabilitating the electoral process or even trying to preserve the appearance of legitimacy in the upcoming municipal elections,” she said.