Police in Nicaragua raided the home of opposition figure Cristiana Chamorro on Wednesday and placed her under house arrest in a move viewed by critics as an attempt by the federal government to block her efforts to run for president.
Chamorro, a journalist and daughter of former President Violeta Chamorro, is widely seen as a challenger to President Daniel Ortega, who is running for a fourth consecutive term in November.
Her brother, Carlos Chamorro, confirmed the raid via social media saying police illegally raided her Managua home for more than five hours. By Wednesday evening, the police were still there and placed her under arrest "in isolation."
The raid came right before Chamorro was set to speak to reporters for a scheduled press conference, he said.
Después de más de cinco horas de allanamiento policial en la vivienda de mi hermana Cristiana Chamorro @chamorrocris, precandidata presidencial, a las 5:15 P.M los policías antimotines la dejan bajo "arresto domiciliar", bajo aislamiento. Su casa sigue ocupada por la Policía.— Carlos F Chamorro (@cefeche) June 2, 2021
Chamorro's home confinement on Wednesday comes a day after prosecutors filed charges of money laundering against the would-be presidential candidate and requested that she be disqualified from running for office.
The Ortega government accused Chamorro of "abusive management" and "ideological falsehood" because of her role running the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation for Reconciliation and Democracy, a press freedom group.
Nicaragua's Interior Ministry has said it launched an investigation into the organization following alleged "inconsistencies" in financial reports the foundation filed with the government between 2015 and 2019.
Chamorro has called the charges trumped up.
She stepped down from her leadership position at the organization in January. The group was disbanded a month later following the passage of a law that would have forced the organization to register as a foreign agent because it accepts funds from international sources.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized the banning of Chamorro from running for office. He said in a tweet Wednesday that "arbitrarily banning" her "reflects Ortega's fear of free and fair elections. Nicaraguans deserve real democracy."
The Ortega government has taken several steps over recent years to crack down on critics and the Chamorro family.
Arbitrarily banning opposition leader @chamorrocris reflects Ortega’s fear of free and fair elections. Nicaraguans deserve real democracy.— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) June 2, 2021
National police also raided the offices of Cristiana Chamorro's brother, Carlos, who is an opposition journalist. In 2018, police confiscated equipment and took over the offices of his independent news outlet Confidencial. He went into exile for a year in neighboring Costa Rica, returning in 2020.
In April 2018, following the government's attempt to revamp the nation's social security system, large-scale protests were violently shut down by Ortega. Hundreds were imprisoned, and more than 300 were killed.
Ortega was elected Nicaragua's first post-revolution president in 1979, but was defeated in 1990 by Violeta Chamorro. She held the office until 1997. Ortega returned to power in 2007 and has been reelected three times in contests shrouded in allegations of corruption and legislative manipulation.
A previous version of this story misstated Cristiana Chamorro's first name as Cristina.