(Reuters) – Nicaraguan police took control of five municipalities run by a party opposed to President Daniel Ortega in recent days, dismissing elected leaders and installing ruling party sympathizers in their place, opposition organizations said on Monday.
The move comes four months before local elections in 153 municipalities across the country.
On Monday morning, police raided four city halls run by opposition party Citizens for Freedom, or Ciudadanos por la Libertad (CxL). Another in Pantasma – an opposition stronghold also in the hands of CxL – was raided over the weekend.
“All legitimately elected municipal governments under the banner of Citizens for Freedom have been taken over by the regime,” said Kitty Monterrey, president of CxL, on Twitter.
“I strongly condemn the arbitrary seizure by the regime of the municipalities… elected by popular vote, and demand the safety and security of their officials and mayors,” she added.
Nicaragua’s government and police force did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
CxL was outlawed in 2021 prior to the presidential elections where President Daniel Ortega was re-elected for another five-year term in a vote decried by the international community as a sham, but the municipalities already run by the party continued in their hands until now.
Through election season last year, opposition candidates were arrested and some have since been tried for treason.
The upcoming municipal elections in November have been condemned by the leaders of CxL, who are in exile, as a “farce” due to the lack of opposition parties.
(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)