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Nicaragua: Five more opposition figures detained ahead of election

Five more opposition figures have been arrested in Nicaragua ahead of upcoming elections, bringing the total number detained since the start of the month to 12.

Those taken into custody include a former health minister and leaders of the leftist opposition Unamos party, which is made up of ex-allies of the country’s president, Daniel Ortega.

Before his arrest at the weekend, Hugo Torres, a former general and ex-Ortega ally said: “It’s not just potential candidates any more, it’s political leaders.”

He accused the Central American country’s president of launching a “second dictatorship” and betraying values he once stood for.

Julie Chung, a US State Department official condemned a “campaign of terror” which she said continued with “more arbitrary arrests” over the weekend.

The wave of detentions come just months before a planned election in November in which Mr Ortega, who has been in power for 14 years, is seeking another term.

Over the past few weeks, a dozen opposition figures have been arrested on orders from Mr Ortega’s security apparatus, including four declared presidential rivals.

Loyalists of the president argue they are only enforcing the law, which prohibits would-be candidates from receiving foreign financing or the publication of information the government determines to be false.

In statements, the police blamed the detainees for seeking to undermine the country’s independence and sovereignty, as well as for “inciting foreign interference in internal affairs, requesting military interventions and organising with foreign financing”.

Mr Torres - who fought alongside Mr Ortega in the late 1970s as they drove right-wing dictator Anastasio Somoza from power - said he had seen drones flying around his home in the days before his arrest.

“This interview may be the last one I give,” Mr Torres said at the weekend. “I am here, waiting for them to come for me.”

Police barged into the former Ortega ally’s home just hours later to arrest.

Mr Torres is involved in the Unamos party, which is formed of many ex-allies of the president. Suyen Barahona, the party’s leader, was also arrested at the weekend.

“These actions against the Unamos leadership are part of an escalation of repression from the Ortega regime against the democratic opposition,” Unamos said in a statement.

Another critic of Mr Ortega arrested at the weekend was Dora Maria Tellez, a former Sandinista guerrilla commander and ex-health secretary in the first Sandinista government who has become the leader of an opposition movement.

Tamara Davila, a central figure in the opposition coalition Blue and White National Unity, was also among those detained.

Ms Chung from the US State Department said that the region “cannot stand by” amid the events in Nicaragua.

The US has imposed sanctions on people close to Mr Ortega, including his daughter and the head of his Sandinista party in Congress last week.

Additional reporting by agencies

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