Blinken accuses Nicaragua's Ortega of preparing 'sham election'

FILE PHOTO: A man checks his phone while walking by a banner promoting Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo as presidential election campaigning begins, in Managua, Nicaragua, September 25, 2021. REUTERS/Maynor Valenzuela

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega on Friday of preparing a sham election next month and trying to establish an “authoritarian dynasty” amid a wave of arrests ahead of Nicaragua’s Nov. 7 vote.

Blinken, who visited Latin America this week with stops in Ecuador and Colombia, welcomed a vote on Wednesday by the Organization of American States expressing “alarm” over Nicaraguan government actions it says will undermine the election, in which Ortega seeks a fourth consecutive term.

The government led by Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla leader, has become increasingly isolated and criticized internationally for its crackdown on the president's opponents and critical media in the Central American nation he has dominated since returning to power 15 years ago.

Working with his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, Ortega has tightened his grip on the country.

Blinken pointed out that Nicaragua made a commitment to democracy 20 years ago when it joined the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

“President Ortega and Vice President Murillo have failed to honor this commitment by preparing a sham election devoid of credibility, by silencing and arresting opponents, and, ultimately, by attempting to establish an authoritarian dynasty unaccountable to the Nicaraguan people,” Blinken said in a statement.

Washington has imposed sanctions and U.S visa bans on a number Ortega’s allies and family members.

“The United States continues to work with partners in the region and across the world to promote accountability for those who support Ortega and Murillo’s anti-democratic actions," Blinken said.

He said Washington would “continue to press the Nicaraguan government to restore civil and political rights and immediately and unconditionally release political prisoners”.

(Reporting By Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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