Lewisham’s Mayor Damien Egan has come under fire for meeting with the ambassador for Nicaragua, where more than 300 anti-government protestors have been killed since April.

Mr Egan met with Nicaraguan ambassador Guisell Morales-Echaverry on Friday (November 23) to discuss supporting Fairtrade suppliers working in farming co-operatives in Lewisham’s twin city, Matagalpa in Nicaragua, a Lewisham Council spokesperson said.

But Amnesty International UK and Northumbria University historian of Nicaragua, Dr Hilary Francis, warned against the “whitewashing” of abuses when meeting government representatives.

At least 322 people have been killed, thousands injured and torture used in the Central American nation since April, following a crackdown on protests against the government.

Dr Francis said Nicaragua’s government officials were “keen to show anyone in a position of power is supporting them” after becoming “international pariahs” for their human rights violations.

This comes after the Lord Mayor of Oxford, Colin Cook, turned down a meeting with the Nicaraguan ambassador last month following warnings it would damage the city’s reputation.

Dr Francis said she messaged and emailed Mr Egan and the council after seeing a photo of Mr Egan with the Nicaraguan ambassador on Twitter, urging the Mayor to condemn the human rights abuses.

Twitter users were also quick to criticise the photo of the meeting and Mr Egan’s reply that he would “be happy to speak to activists to learn about the actions of the Nicaraguan government.”

User Eustaquio Lopez-Perez tweeted: “Despicable that Lewisham Council is meeting with a regime that has been condemned by the OAS (Organisation of American States), CIDH (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights), Amnesty, Human Rights Watch.

“Activists? You are en elected official. It’s your job to do some research and educate yourself. Do you have advisors? I’d recommend P45ing them because they are useless. BTW I’m not an activist. I’m a British Nicaraguan Lewisham resident who will not be voting for you ever.”

User Aminah Zamora wrote: “Her complicity with Daniel Ortega’s regime cannot be left unnoticed, I am really shocked that the Mayor of Lewisham is prepared to do business with #Fasciscts. [sic] 545 ppl have been murdered, 1,315 injured in a barbaric way. I highly recommend you to inform yourself.”

Amnesty International UK’s foreign affairs analyst, Polly Truscott, said: “The Nicaraguan government’s violent crackdown and repression on its people, which has seen anti-government protestors killed, tortured and injured, is well known.

“It is important that any meeting with government representatives does not whitewash such abuses by ignoring the human rights horrors taking place in the country.”

A Lewisham Council spokesperson said the Mayor condemns human rights abuses “anywhere in the world including Nicaragua.”

“Mayor Egan accepted an invitation from Nicaraguan ambassador Guisell Morales-Echaverry to meet her to discuss Lewisham’s long-standing twinning with the people of Matagalpa and supporting fair trade suppliers working in farming co-operatives,” they said.

“The Mayor takes human rights issues very seriously and is happy to meet interested organisations who are concerned about the actions of the Nicaraguan government today.”