The European Union on Friday said it felt “satisfaction and relief” after Nicaragua freed over 200 detained opposition members and expelled them to the United States.
After weeks of quiet talks with Washington, Nicaragua on Thursday allowed the 222 detainees — which include former challengers to Ortega — to board a chartered flight.
The EU said it “welcomes the role of the US administration in facilitating the safe journey” of the prisoners, who include three citizens of the bloc.
“Although they should not have spent one single day in prison, today the EU expresses satisfaction and relief,” a spokesman said in a statement.
While the EU rejected a move to strip them of Nicaraguan citizenship, it said “their release is a positive and long-awaited step that should be followed by dialogue and further actions”.
The release of the prisoners was a surprise move by the Central American country’s increasingly authoritarian president, Daniel Ortega.
The United States welcomed the decision but said it was made unilaterally without any promises in return for Ortega, who is under a slew of US sanctions.
Hundreds of people were sent to prison in Nicaragua after anti-government protests in 2018 that were met with a brutal crackdown, resulting in 355 deaths and more than 100,000 people fleeing into exile.
Dozens of opposition figures were arrested in 2021 — including seven presidential hopefuls — ahead of elections. They were accused of undermining “national integrity.”
A firebrand Marxist in his youth, Ortega was a guerrilla in the Sandinista movement that initially took power in 1979 after toppling the US-backed Somoza family dictatorship.
The EU has also imposed sanctions on senior Nicaraguan officials, including Ortega’s wife, who is vice president, and his son.