Nicaragua: accusations of rigging elections and silencing media

Last week, armed men raided, shut down, and confiscated all the equipment of a small radio station whose owner is affiliated with an opposition political movement.

By , Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and the Sandinista-controlled Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) stand accused of rigging last year's municipal elections to steal more than 40 mayor's seats – including the capital city of Managua. The widespread allegations and documentation of fraud have led to $130 million in foreign-aid cuts from the United States and the European nations, creating liquidity problems for the government that now jeopardize Nicaragua's program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Despite the continuing controversy over last year's elections, the Sandinistas refuse to discuss the issue with critics. Instead, they have cracked down on dissidents and routinely clashed with any attempt at opposition protests. The government has also endeavored to silence critical voices in the media – sometimes with an excessive show of force.

Last week, 30 armed men in civilian clothing raided, shut down, and confiscated all the equipment of a small radio station whose owner is affiliated with an opposition political movement.

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Though Radio La Ley only had a weak, six-mile broadcast frequency in the northern town of Sébaco, it was the only radio station in the area and therefore a threat to the government, according to owner Santiago Aburto.

The closing of the radio station – allegedly because its broadcast license was expired (even though a 2007 law extended all media broadcasting licenses indefinitely) – was condemned by the Radio Broadcasters Union, the national press and the Inter-American Press Association.

Put on the defensive by claims of fraud and silencing the media, Mr. Ortega has seized an opportunity to go on the offensive presented by the coup in Honduras.

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