Nicaragua files money laundering charges against opponent

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MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — Prosecutors in Nicaragua said Tuesday they have formally lodged money laundering charges against journalist Cristiana Chamorro, daughter of a former president and a potential challenger to President Daniel Ortega.

In the latest attempt to eliminate potential challengers to Ortega in the Nov. 7 elections, prosecutors asked the country's electoral tribunal to bar Chamorro from running or holding public office. Candidates have to register for the elections by Aug. 2.

In late May, national police raided the offices of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation for Reconciliation and Democracy, the nongovernmental group named after her mother and led by Chamorro until recently. They also raided the offices of the independent news outlet run by her brother Carlos Fernando Chamorro.

Cristiana Chamorro said later, “This is another act by the dictatorship against the people of Nicaragua, freedom of expression, human rights and public liberties."

The Nicaraguan government has said Chamorro is under investigation for alleged financial irregularities and money laundering related to the foundation. She said the new accusations are Ortega’s attempt to keep her out of the race, in which he is seeking his fourth consecutive presidential term.

Chamorro denied the government’s allegations and called for the political opposition to unite behind a “single candidacy.” Ortega is “scared to death because united we are going to defeat the dictatorship in these elections,” she said, sounding more like a potential candidate.

On Tuesday morning, Chamorro went to the offices of the opposition Citizens for Liberty party to sign up to run in the party's presidential primary.

In January, she stepped down from her role at the foundation. A month later, it closed its operations in Nicaragua after passage of a “foreign agents” law designed to track foreign funding of organizations operating in the country.

Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council and congress have been narrowing the space for maneuver for the country’s opposition. In May, the council cancelled the legal status of the Democratic Restoration Party, which was expected to potentially be a vehicle for an opposition coalition bid against Ortega.

Cristiana Chamorro's mother, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, beat Ortega to win the presidency in 1990 and served until 1997. Her husband, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, had run his family newspaper La Prensa and was jailed and forced into exile multiple times before his assassination in 1978. Cristiana Chamorro is the vice president of La Prensa.

The killing of Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, a noted critic of dictator Anastasio Somoza, galvanized opposition and propelled the Sandinista revolution led by Ortega that ended the dictatorship.

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