Following months of civil unrest in the Central American country of Nicaragua, a Managua judge issued an arrest warrant for opposition leader Felix Maradiaga on Monday, per Reuters. Maradiaga has been accused by the government of inciting the violent protests the country has been facing since April this year.
President Daniel Ortega and his government allege that not only did Maradiaga incite the violence, but that he actually also funded the protests “and trained protesters through a think tank he heads,” the Institute of Strategic Studies and Public Policies.
Maradiaga took to Twitter to share his thoughts on the matter.
“My conscience is clean. I’ve always been guided by justice, non-violence and integrity. Today I have more moral conviction than ever before. Those of us who love Nicaragua and believe in liberty have the ethical obligation to continue firmly in this civic struggle.”
He is not currently in Nicaragua, and might well choose to remain that way in order to avoid being arrested for his involvement in the riots.
Since the violence erupted in April, approximately 300 people have been jailed, and about 300 have also been killed by police and armed groups that back the government, according to human rights groups.
— WSVN 7 News (@wsvn) September 24, 2018
The protests first fired up in April after President Ortega announced his left-leaning government was planning to reduce welfare benefits. Protests against the president and his administration have only escalated from there, with unrest spreading throughout the country at his rule.
Ortega has been in office since 2007, but it is not the first time he has been in a position of power in Nicaragua. He also ran the country during the 1980s when Nicaragua was experiencing a civil war. That decade saw the worst ever violence in the country as “his Sandinista government battled U.S.-backed ‘Contra’ rebels in the 1980s.”
The latest string of riots has caused disruptions to daily life. Just this month, a 24-hour riot resulted in shops, businesses, and banks having to be shut for the duration, according to The Guardian. That particular strike was a demand on the part of the people to release activists who have been jailed at previous protests. Among their demands is also the resignation of President Ortega.
“With 200 political prisoners and [new] murders every day, this strike is just one more sign that nothing is normal here in Nicaragua,” said Ana Margarita Vigil, a national director of the outlawed opposition Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS).
Despite rebel strongholds falling to security and paramilitary forces in July, the protests have continued, with activists finding new bases from which to reportedly plan their riots.