It has been a fortnight since Georgiana Aguirre-Sacasa last heard from her elderly father: a terse WhatsApp message in which Nicaragua’s former foreign minister said border guards had stopped him leaving the country and seized his passport, and that he was on his way home. “What??” she replied from her home in Denver, Colorado. “Why???” No answer came.
By then Aguirre-Sacasa believes Nicaraguan police officials on motorcycles had intercepted her father’s vehicle on the highway as he headed back to the capital, Managua. After searching it, they placed the 76-year-old retired diplomat in a pickup truck and spirited him away to an unknown destination. “We are in this nightmare,” his daughter said this week as she desperately sought news of her father. “Right now, I just need proof of life.”
Francisco Aguirre-Sacasa is the oldest target of a brazen political crackdown being waged by the government of Daniel Ortega ahead of the Central American country’s next presidential election on 7 November. Police have arrested at least 32 people since late May, including important opposition figures who were challenging the revolutionary hero-turned-autocrat as he seeks a a fourth consecutive term. “This guy is doing something that nobody believed was possible in the 21st century. He is systematically removing from the political scene each one of the politicians who could potentially challenge him,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Human Rights Watch’s Americas director.
Some of the targets are prominent rivals of the septuagenarian Sandinista, including the 44-year-old political activist Félix Maradiaga and Cristiana Chamorro, the 67-year-old daughter of former president Violeta Barrios de Chamorro. Chamorro, who is under house arrest after being detained on 2 June, was widely seen as the candidate best placed to defeat Ortega, who successfully smothered a dramatic 2018 uprising against his rule….
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