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OAS rights body: Over 70K Nicaraguans in exile due to crisis

September 20, 2019 GMT

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — More than 70,000 Nicaraguans have fled into exile since the Central American country’s political crisis began nearly a year and a half ago, an international rights body said Friday.

That’s up from 50,000, according to the previous report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a branch of the Organization of American States, from September 2018.

The commission’s new report also said that about 55,000 of the Nicaraguan exiles are in neighboring Costa Rica.

It added that the forced migration is rooted in a human rights crisis in Nicaragua and state repression of protests that erupted in April 2018, resulting in a crackdown by security forces and armed, pro-government militias.

“Since the crisis began, 328 people have lost their lives and approximately 700 people have been detained and tried,” the report said. “As of today, according to information from civil society, 130 people continue to be deprived of liberty over events linked to the protests.”

A representative of President Daniel Ortega’s government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ortega has repeatedly rejected reports by the commission, calling the rights body “slanted and biased” and accusing its members of “manipulating information, turning an attempt at a coup d’etat into a supposed peaceful protest.”

The commission said 20% of Nicaraguans in exile are students who took part in protests; 23% are human rights defenders or leaders of social and rural movements; and 18% are people who helped demonstrators with food, medicine and safe houses. Others are doctors, journalists and former soldiers or police who refused to participate in the crackdown.

The report accused Nicaraguan police, other security forces and groups tied to Ortega’s Sandinista political movement of persecution leading to forced displacement.

Also Friday, Carlos Morales, Nicaragua’s diplomatic envoy to U.N. offices in Geneva, rejected 100 of 259 recommendations to Nicaragua made by the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Morales said the recommendations are marked by “a lack of foundation and distortion of reality,” while saying Nicaragua respects human rights.