Nicaragua arrests ex-beauty queen candidate

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — Nicaraguan police have arrested a former beauty queen two days after she registered as an antigovernment candidate in the Nov. 7 elections, the conservative Citizens for Liberty coalition said Wednesday.

The coalition said vice presidential candidate Berenice Quezada had been placed under house arrest, and claimed she was being held incommunicado. Nicaragua’s national police had yet to confirm the detention or the charges.

She was the eighth contender in the election to be arrested since May. The other seven candidates and about two dozen opposition leaders have been arrested on vague treason charges. Most of those arrested in the crackdown are being held incommunicado, at undisclosed locations and with no access to lawyers.

Quezada was crowned Miss Nicaragua in 2017, and had called on citizens to vote against “the dictatorship” of President Daniel Ortega, who is seeking a fourth consecutive term.

On Monday, Citizens for Liberty coalition registered Oscar Sobalvarro, a rancher and former commander in the U.S.-backed ‘Contra’ rebellion against Ortega’s government during the 1980s.

That came despite calls from some opposition parties to boycott the race after Ortega arrested most of his potential opponents.

“The country has experienced too much harassment and repression, and Nicaraguans deserve to live in peace,” Sobalvarro said.

As expected, the Sandinista party nominated Ortega for reelection as president and his wife, Rosarillo Murillo, for vice president.

With so many opposition contenders jailed, critics doubt the presence of long-shot candidates like Sobalvarro would do anything more than lend a thin veil of legitimacy to already discredited elections in which Ortega, 75, is seeking re-election.

Electoral authorities allied with Ortega previously barred two opposition parties from even running candidates.

Ortega alleges the country’s April 2018 street protests were part of an organized coup attempt with foreign backing.

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