BOGOTA, Feb 23 (Reuters) – Colombia’s leftist government on Thursday blasted Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s expulsion of hundreds of prominent critics earlier this month and called for international monitoring and a criminal inquiry, according to a statement by the Colombian foreign ministry.
The criticism by the government of Colombian President Gustavo Petro is the latest from the region’s mostly leftist governments, after Chile slammed the ejection of more than 200 political prisoners to the United States that Ortega has called criminal mercenaries.
“Colombia… rejects the dictatorial procedures of those who bring to mind the worst moments of the Anastasio Somoza dictatorship,” the Colombian foreign ministry said in the statement.
Ortega’s Sandinista movement toppled the right-wing Somoza family dynasty in 1979, but in recent years many of Ortega’s former rebel allies have been jailed in an unprecedented crackdown on dissent in the Central American country.
Colombia’s government derided Ortega’s expulsion of political prisoners as inhumane and arbitrary.
Ortega’s judicial officials also stripped the expelled prisoners of their Nicaraguan citizenship, a move later applied to dozens more critics living abroad. The United States has welcomed Ortega’s release of prisoners a step in favor of human rights.
Colombia’s foreign ministry said that the former prisoners “only crime has been to defend democracy, the right to criticize and universal human rights.”
The South American country’s foreign ministry called on the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit the political prisoners who remain in Nicaragua, as well as for the Hague-based International Criminal Court to evaluate rights violations.
The foreign ministry said it would offer Colombian citizenship to “those who have been abused by Nicaragua’s intolerant government,” joining Spain, Mexico and others that have extended similar offers.
Earlier this month, Nicaragua freed more than 200 political prisoners and flew them to the United States. Nearly all were prominent government critics jailed in recent years.