Anti-Sandinista exiles in Nicaragua plan a march to test Ortega’s commitment to democracy

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Exiles gathered on Tuesday at the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front headquarters in Managua for the beginning of a march they say will make their case to the Nicaraguan government and the international community that their country is “an oppressive government that oppresses its citizens.”

Leaders of the April 25 National Day of Resistance in Nicaragua gave brief speeches, including

an ultimatum to President Daniel Ortega to restore democracy or face a march that will include other former leftist allies in the region like Ecuador and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas.

“If he wants to continue as a tyrant he has to listen to the Nicaraguan people,” said Prospero Gastelum, head of Nicaragua’s private business federation.

Ortega, however, has assured regional leaders that the bid to stage what he calls a “humanitarian march” to his support in Sunday’s elections is a private event. U.S. President Donald Trump and other world leaders have said they are refusing to recognize Sunday’s vote, in which Ortega and wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, secured a fifth straight term and the ruling party controls every key position.

The opposition march makes the same case: that Ortega has turned Nicaragua into a dictatorship and ousted elections from the center stage in the affairs of the nation.

On Tuesday, Venezuelan expatriates, who had previously called for a boycott of the vote in their country after Maduro’s efforts to consolidate power failed, said they wanted the Nicaraguan demonstrators to join them in a protest march in Caracas on Friday to give them a taste of their suffering.

They also urged supporters to spread word of the Nicaraguan demonstration via social media, mobile messaging apps and text messages.

The march that began Tuesday afternoon will head to several sites across the city. The first is the national Supreme Court building, which observers say has been used by authorities to restrain the opposition and allow government control of the results of elections that Ortega contends he won.

The next is La Violencia monument, where Ortega and his then-lover and wife, the actress Murillo, placed crosses days after the 1984 slayings of four students and a teacher during a student protest.

“We want freedom, liberty, equality, equality between men and women, between children and adults. We want… the dictatorship to give up its dictatorship,” Gastelum said.

After sitting out protests after Ortega took power in 1979, the Sandinistas began staging violent street demonstrations in late 2015, culminating in a 10-month standoff and a political crisis that sparked violence and forced tens of thousands to flee.

The Sandinistas’ most recent election in 2006 restored the party’s one-party rule but was widely viewed as too close to the government. Ortega later ruled as a weakened figure and the country erupted into street protests in 2015. A 2015 deal saw Ortega make concessions to the opposition in exchange for the right to participate in Sunday’s presidential election.

So far, the government has refused to stop the march.

“As for the People of Nicaragua, they are dreaming for a better future,” Bertha Crespo, the office of the official Sandinista newspaper La Prensa’s management told The Washington Post by phone, adding that the newspaper stood by Ortega and Murillo’s statements to other world leaders.

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