Managua (Nicaragua), Feb. 12 (AP) – Nicaragua’s ruling Sandinista political machine mobilized thousands of worshipers Saturday to celebrate the government’s decision to expel 222 opposition leaders, activists, pastors, students and reporters.
Waving the red and black flags of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, the marchers staged the kind of peaceful public demonstration that the government has refused to hold against the opposition in recent years.
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Lizbeth Chávez, holding a portrait of Vice President and First Lady Rosario Murillo, said: “We’re marching, celebrating our sovereignty, defending our sovereignty, and telling the Yankee Empire we’re here, we’ll stay here, we’ll stay “.
President Daniel Ortega has said Thursday’s sudden decision to put 222 jailed opposition members on a plane bound for Washington was Murillo’s idea. The ruling couple called the prisoners “terrorists” who were funded by the US government in an attempt to destabilize their government.
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While the plane was still in the air, Sandinista lawmakers approved a constitutional change that would strip prisoners of their Nicaraguan citizenship.
The United States granted them full humanitarian parole, allowing them to work in the United States for two years and apply for asylum. The Spanish government offered them all citizenships.
U.S. officials called the mass release a positive sign after years of intransigence from Ortega, who insists he is asking for nothing in return. The United States and European countries have stepped up sanctions against members of Ortega’s family, inner circle and government.
Saturday’s show of defiance came a day after a Nicaraguan judge sentenced outspoken government critic Catholic Bishop Rolando Alvarez to 26 years in prison on various charges, including spreading false information and undermining the government.
Alvarez had been queuing to board his plane Thursday morning when he refused to leave Nicaragua. He was imprisoned and sentenced the next day. Nicaragua’s Catholic leaders were silent on Saturday.
Donal Manuel Mendoza walked among the crowd during Saturday’s parade. “We marched because we defeated the imperial mercenaries,” he said. “We’ve kicked them out of this country.” (AP)
(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)