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Nicaragua expels international Red Cross representative

March 25, 2022 GMT

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The government of Nicaragua has expelled the representative of the International Red Cross Committee, a local Red Cross spokeswoman said Thursday.

Spokeswoman María Cristina Rivera said the organization had received a letter from the government of President Daniel Ortega ordering ICRC representative Thomas Ess out of the country.

The spokeswoman said the reason behind the decision was not clear, and no government agency would confirm the expulsion.

The Red Cross said it would continue its humanitarian work in Nicaragua. Red Cross personnel had visited demonstrators imprisoned following 2018 protests against the government.

In a statement, the Association of Relatives of Political Prisoners called the expulsion “a new violation of human rights.”

Since mid-2021 Ortega’s government has arrested dozens of opposition figures and sentenced many to prison terms.

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Earlier this month, the Ortega government ordered the expulsion of the papal nuncio, Polish Msgr. Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag.

The church said in a statement at the time that Nicaragua’s action was “grave and unjustified.”

The Nuncio had functioned as a formal witness during government talks with the opposition.

At the end of last year, relatives of 46 detained opposition figures had asked Sommertag to intercede with Ortega, though nothing came of the effort.

Ortega’s government increased its crackdown on opposition leaders ahead of last year’s presidential elections, arresting potential candidates against him as well as several dozen prominent journalists, leaders of nongovernmental organizations and other critics.