(Reuters) -Nicaragua has asked the European Union’s ambassador to leave the country, three diplomatic sources told Reuters on Wednesday, after officials deemed the representative “persona non grata.”
European Union Ambassador Bettina Muscheidt was summoned to the Foreign Ministry, where she was declared “non grata” and notified that she should leave the country, one of the diplomatic sources said.
Muscheidt is no longer welcome in Nicaragua, according to one of the diplomatic sources who requested anonymity to discuss the decision.
One source said the EU ambassador was asked to leave the country on Wednesday, but the other two did not specify a timeframe for her departure.
The decision by President Daniel Ortega’s government is just the latest push to punish those who appear to criticize him, following an especially sweeping clampdown on independent media and the gutted political opposition over the past few years.
Neither the government’s press office nor the foreign ministry responded to requests for comment.
The decision to force Muscheidt to leave the Central American country follows a statement by the European Union issued at the United Nations last week in which it urged Ortega to “restore democracy.” The statement went on to press for the release of political prisoners and respect for human rights.
Muscheidt “has been expelled in a vulgar way,” tweeted ex-ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS) Arturo McFields, who resigned his post in March.
There have been other high-profile diplomatic rejections in recent months.
Hugo Rodriguez, a nominee to serve as U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua, was denied his post by the government in June.
In February, the Vatican’s ambassador to Managua, Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, was declared persona non grata and ordered to leave.
Nationwide protests against Ortega broke out in 2018, resulting in over 300 deaths, most at the hands of police.
During last year’s presidential election, Ortega’s main political challengers were all arrested and a broad assault on dissent was enforced.
Ortega, 76, a former Marxist rebel who helped topple a right-wing dictatorship in the late 1970s, came back to power in 2007 and sailed to a fourth term in a November election widely slammed as a sham.
(Reporting by Ismael Lopez and Diego Ore; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by Sandra Maler and Stephen Coates)