Sandinista congressman Edwin Castro is defending his government’s decision to deny entry to a delegation of Venezuelan opposition politicos who arrived here Wednesday at Augusto Sandino International Airport.
Castro said it is Nicaragua’s “sovereign right” to deny entry to certain people, arguing that the United States does so all the time. “No one is obligated to receive everyone who comes,” Castro told the press.
On Wednesday afternoon, a delegation of four Latin American and European parliamentarians headed by Venezuelan former governor Henrique Fernando Salas and opposition congressmen Carlos Berrizbeitia were denied entry into Nicaragua after arriving at the airport aboard a private jet. The delegation, which is touring the region as part of the International Democrat Union (IDU), was reportedly detained at the airport for three hours without explanation before being ordered to leave the country.
Similar to the recent deportation of AFP photojournalist Hector Retamal, Sandinista officials offered various inconsistent explanations as to why the Venezuelans were tossed. One of the initial excuses was that the visiting delegates didn’t have “political visas”—something that doesn’t exist under Nicaraguan immigration law.
The Venezuelans insist their ouster was politically motivated.
“‘Whoever doesn’t accept the Chavista revolution is not a friend of Nicaragua,’ words from the Customs agent!!” congressman Berrizbeitia tweeted while detained at the airport in Managua.
Berrizbeitia reported via Twitter that his group was told they had to leave the country because of “orders from above.”
Salas, meanwhile, tweeted that the situation was “unacceptable” because Venezuelans “have the right to enter Nicaragua by land, sea or air.” The opposition politician speculated that his group’s denied entry into Nicaragua was ordered by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro or someone else “who doesn’t want us to talk about the elections in Venezuela.”
The head of Nicaragua’s main opposition party and church leaders are criticizing the incident as another worrisome indication of the Sandinistas government’s growing intolerance, repression and disregard for the rule of law.
Opposition congressman Eduardo Montealegre, political coordinator of the right-wing Independent Liberal Party (PLI), condemned the act as “another abuse by the government of Daniel Ortega, who is showing clearly that ALBA is nothing more than an association of authoritarian governments that offer each other mutual support in their repression of the opposition.”
In a prepared statement, the PLI said the Sandinistas’ refusal to allow the Venezuelan delegation to enter the country is a clear indication that “the government of Ortega is just a puppet of Venezuela’s illegitimate President Nicolás Maduro, who is giving Ortega orders from Venezuela.”
Catholic Archbishop of Managua Monseñor Silvio Báez has also expressed concern over the situation and is asking the government to offer a formal explanation of what happened.