SAN JOSE (Reuters) - The Costa Rican government gave political asylum to Nicaraguan human rights activist Alvaro Leiva, months after he fled his country due to death threats, Costa Rica’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
Leiva’s case marks the first time Costa Rica has granted such protections to a Nicaraguan citizen since political turmoil and civil unrest grew increasingly deadly in the neighboring Central American country.
More than 300 people have been killed and at least 2,000 injured in crackdowns by police and armed groups on protests that began in April over government plans to cut welfare benefits. That soon escalated into broader opposition to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.
“This is a special protection for people including diplomats or those who have participated in political movements in their countries of origin,” the Costa Rican foreign ministry said in a statement.
Leiva leads the Nicaraguan human rights association ANPDH, which has accused Ortega’s government of violations, and told Reuters he was happy to be granted asylum in Costa Rica.
“This is a country that does respect human rights,” he said.
Reporting by Alvaro Murillo; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Paul Tait