A reporter from a left British newspaper says he was detained without explanation in Mexico as he was traveling to Nicaragua to cover the Sunday election. The US threatened the country with new sanctions ahead of the poll.
Steve Sweeney, international editor for the UK socialist daily Morning Star, said he had been placed in police custody as he was making a transfer flight through Mexico City. If his detention continues, he will not be able to reach Nicaragua in time to cover the general election, which the country is holding on Sunday.
The ballot is a complicated one, with critics of President Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista government branding it a farce. Days before the election, the US ramped up pressure against Nicaraguan officials, as the House passed the so-called RENACER Act, calling it a response to violations of human rights in Nicaragua.
Ortega defenders, including Sweeney, say the US is simply continuing its decades-old bipartisan campaign to overthrow Ortega. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) famously ruled in Nicaragua’s favor after it accused the US of violating international law by supporting the Contras armed groups in the 1980s.
The journalist said he suspected that his detention was part of a Western attempt to dictate the narrative on the election, which Ortega is projected to win in a landslide.
“I am the only journalist from a British newspaper covering the Nicaraguan elections from the ground,” he asserted. “Blocking me from doing so would leave the British press free to regurgitate their standard anti-Nicaragua fare unchallenged.”
I am the only journalist from a British newspaper covering the Nicaraguan elections from the ground.Blocking me from doing so would leave the British press free to regurgitate their standard anti-Nicaragua fare unchallenged.
— Steve Sweeney (@SweeneySteve) November 7, 2021
The US said it will not recognize the outcome of the election, accusing the Ortega government of cracking down on opposition forces. This may indicate that a coup was in the making in Nicaragua similar to the one that ousted Bolivian President Evo Morales in 2019, Sweeney suggested.
“Solidarity with all those on the ground is now vital. We must not fall for the structural misinformation being fed through the mainstream press,” he said, calling on the Mexican government to release him.
He said the US banned him from entering two weeks before the Nicaragua trip.
Sweeney is no stranger to being arrested and even kicked out from foreign nations. In 2019, Turkey prevented him from entering when he aimed to cover local elections, reportedly citing national security concerns. Sweeney and the newspaper he works for are vocal critics of the Turkish government.