Human rights groups say the number of anti-government protesters killed by security forces in Nicaragua has risen sharply in recent days. That's prompted a key anti-government activist – who had fled to Miami – to go back to Nicaragua.
Félix Maradiaga is a leading human rights activist in Nicaragua. And a wanted man. President Daniel Ortega wants him arrested for inciting protests against Ortega's authoritarian regime, which have been raging there since April.
Facing 30 years in prison, Maradiaga escaped to Miami last month to rally support here for the protesters. But on Tuesday a major Nicaraguan human rights group announced that Ortega security forces have killed 285 people in the unrest. And Maradiaga decided to go back.
"The situation is much, much worse than we expected," Maradiaga told WLRN by phone after arriving in Managua Tuesday afternoon. "So I wanted to start working as soon as possible in joining my colleagues to find a solution.”
Maradiaga heads the Institute for Strategic Studies and Public Policy (IEEPP) in Managua,and he said he plans to organize a new wave of non-violent protests to force Ortega out of power.
"We see a government that is using extreme violence precisely because they’re weak," Maradiaga said, "precisely because they’re losing legitimacy."
Many Nicaraguans accuse Ortega and his vice president wife, Rosario Murillo, of turning the country into a corrupt dictatorship. But Ortega has refused calls for early presidential elections.
As of Tuesday night, Maradiaga had not been arrested.