Nicaraguan Indigenous party says government has barred it ahead of local elections
Oct 4 (Reuters) - Nicaraguan electoral authorities barred an Indigenous party that has in the past clashed with President Daniel Ortega, a party official said on Wednesday, leaving the ruling Sandinistas with no opposition in upcoming local elections in two regions.
The official, Sammy Allen Cubero, wrote in a Facebook post that the Yatama party had been disqualified from participating in all future elections, including a local vote scheduled for March.
Cubero, a Yatama youth leader, did not say why authorities had canceled the party's legal status.
Police have also arrested and jailed two party leaders, Yatama said in statement on Monday, calling the detentions baseless and demanding the release of the two.
Ortega's press office did not respond to requests for comment on the Yatama allegations. Local media reported that the electoral council had accused the party of inciting foreign interference and treason.
Yatama, short for Yapti Tasba Masraka Nanih Aslatakanka, has roots in Nicaragua's largest Indigenous community, the Miskitos. The party had been planning to compete for votes in the regions of Costa Caribe and Costa Caribe Norte, both located along Nicaragua's Caribbean coast.
In its statement, Yatama also said the government had confiscated a pair of local radio stations that served as a platform for Yatama leaders.
The two radio stations have passed into state hands because they were transmitting in the cities of Bilwi and Waspan without proper permits, according to a letter from Nicaragua's telecommunications regulator sent to the party.
Many critics of Ortega's government in recent years have had their properties confiscated or have been expelled from the country and stripped of their citizenship, accused of crimes including treason. The crackdown has also included the Catholic Church.
Ortega's leftist Sandinistas first clashed with the Miskitos in 1981 during the leader's first term as president, when they were accused of plotting to break away from Nicaragua and 60 people were killed in confrontations, according to official data.
Years later, Ortega reconciled with the Miskitos, but new conflicts emerged in 2018 when community leaders backed mass anti-government protests that left more than 300 dead, according to human rights organizations.
Reporting by Ismael Lopez; Writing by Valentine Hilaire; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Rosalba O'Brien
Yapti Tasba Masraka Nanih Aslatakanka (lit. 'Sons of Mother Earth'; YATAMA) is an indigenous party mainly active on Nicaragua's Atlantic coast. YATAMA has its roots in the MISURASATA (Miskito, Sumo and Rama Sandinista Alliance) and the MISURA/KISAN organisations. In 1988, in response to the Central American peace accords, the remnants of MISURASATA and MISURA/KISAN in Honduras, Costa Rica and Miami reorganized as YATAMA, united by the traditional Miskitu leaders Steadman Fagoth and Brooklyn Rivera.
YATAMA has participated in several regional elections since 1990. Its best electoral result was in the autonomous elections on the Caribbean Coast in 1990 where they won 26 Regional Council member seats (out of 90). The party was in an alliance with the FSLN from 2006 until 2014.