Nicaragua amnesty law sparks fear of whitewash over protest crackdown

World

MANAGUA (Reuters) – Nicaragua’s government on Friday proposed an amnesty law that would free prisoners detained in protests against President Daniel Ortega, but which opponents fear will also limit scope to investigate the state for its crackdown on demonstrators.

Demonstrations erupted in April 2018, when Ortega tried to cut welfare benefits, and gradually spread into a broader protest movement against the president’s rule in Nicaragua.

More than 700 people were arrested in demonstrations and 325 mostly opposition protesters died in clashes with security forces, while over 60,000 Nicaraguans have gone into exile due to political strife over the last 14 months, rights groups say.

Nicaragua’s opposition has made the release of political prisoners a condition of dialogue with the administration, prompting the government to put forward its amnesty bill.

“Amnesty is granted to those who participated in events throughout the country from April 18, 2018 until the date that this law goes into effect,” says the bill introduced to the Congress dominated by Ortega’s Sandinista party.

The opposition group known as the Civic Alliance criticized the proposed amnesty law, fearing it would impede efforts to secure justice for victims of the crackdown.

Jose Pallais, a spokesman for the group, called the proposal an attempted whitewash that would guarantee “impunity for paramilitaries and police who participated in repression.”

The government did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the opposition’s concerns.

Ortega has called the protests an illegal plot by his adversaries to oust him, while critics have accused him of human rights abuses in the response to the dissent.

Families fleeing violence in Central America are part of the flood of people trying to enter the United States via Mexico.

The flow of undocumented immigrants has sparked the threat of a trade war between the United States and Mexico over border security.

Reporting by Ismael Lopez; Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Sandra Maler

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