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Nicaragua frees ex-beauty queen candidate pending trial

·1-min read

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — Nicaraguan police arrested and then released a former beauty queen Wednesday, two days after she registered as an antigovernment candidate in the Nov. 7 elections.

The conservative Citizens for Liberty coalition said its vice presidential candidate, Berenice Quezada, had been placed under house arrest. Authorities later said she had been charged with inciting terrorism, but would be released pending trial.

Quezada would still apparently be unable to resume her candidacy because of the charges.

She was the eighth contender in the election to be arrested since May. Quezada was crowned Miss Nicaragua in 2017, and had called on citizens to vote against “the dictatorship” of President Daniel Ortega, who is seeking a fourth consecutive term.

On Monday, the Citizens for Liberty coalition registered as its presidential candidate Oscar Sobalvarro, a rancher and former commander in the U.S.-backed "Contra" rebellion against Ortega’s government during the 1980s.

That came despite calls from some opposition parties to boycott the race after Ortega arrested most of his potential opponents.

“The country has experienced too much harassment and repression, and Nicaraguans deserve to live in peace,” Sobalvarro said.

As expected, the Sandinista party nominated Ortega for reelection as president and his wife, Rosarillo Murillo, for vice president.

With so many opposition contenders jailed, critics doubt the presence of long-shot candidates like Sobalvarro would do anything more than lend a thin veil of legitimacy to already discredited elections in which Ortega, 75, is seeking re-election.

Electoral authorities allied with Ortega previously barred two opposition parties from even running candidates.

Ortega alleges the country’s April 2018 street protests were part of an organized coup attempt with foreign backing.

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