The United States on Monday imposed a new round of sanctions on Nicaraguan officials, including the defence minister, on the day President Daniel Ortega was sworn into office following highly questionable elections.
Monday’s action, the latest sanctions targeting Nicaragua that the US has coordinated with allies, aims to increase pressure on Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.
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The US Department of the Treasury said in a statement that it imposed sanctions on six Nicaraguan officials over accusations of state acts of violence, disinformation and targeting of independent media.
“In concert with democracies in the international community, the United States will continue to call out the Ortega-Murillo regime’s ongoing abuses and will deploy diplomatic and economic tools to support the restoration of democracy and respect for human rights in Nicaragua,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
New sanctions and visa restrictions target those complicit in the Ortega-Murillo regime’s repression, including politically motivated arrests and efforts to stifle independent media. We stand with the Nicaraguan people.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) January 10, 2022
The action comes after Nicaragua’s November 7 presidential election drew international condemnation. In the months prior to the vote, Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla, detained opponents and challengers and criminalised dissent – securing a fourth consecutive term in office.
Election observers from the European Union and the Organization of American States were not allowed to scrutinise the process, and journalists were barred from entering Nicaragua.
The US Treasury action targeted the minister of defence as well as officials of the military, the company overseeing telecommunications and postal services and the state-owned Nicaraguan Mining Company.
The US Department of State also said it is also taking steps to impose visa restrictions on 116 people it accused of undermining democracy in Nicaragua, barring some mayors, prosecutors and police, prison and military officials, among others, from entering the US.
Also on Monday the EU issued travel bans and imposed asset freezes on family members of Ortega and Murillo, including a daughter and son, as well as police, the Supreme Electoral Council and the company overseeing telecommunications and postal services.
“Those targeted are responsible for serious human rights violations, including repression of civil society, supporting the fraudulent presidential and parliamentary elections and undermining democracy and the rule of law,” the EU said in a statement.
On Sunday, members of the nation’s new congress took office. Of 90 legislators sworn in, 75 belong to Ortega’s Sandinista party and the other 15 are from small parties expected to work with the regime.
The legislators elected Gustavo Porras, a longtime Sandinista and congress member, as leader of the unicameral legislature. The congressional members were also elected in the November 7 elections.