Central America

Nicaraguan officials sanctioned by U.S., E.U. ahead of inauguration

Published : January 11, 2022 16:35 IST

Rosario Murillo (l) and Daniel Ortega are accused of leading Nicaragua towards dictatorship. Photo: Cesar Perez/Nicaraguan Presidency/AFP

The U.S. said the measures are in response to President Daniel Ortega's "subjugation of democracy."

The U.S. Department of the Treasury on January 10 announced that it was imposing sanctions on six Nicaraguan officials connected with the regime of President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo. The U.S. announced the sanctions on Ortega and Murillo's inauguration day, following what the U.S. described as "fraudulent elections orchestrated by their regime" in November.

The measures were taken in conjunction with the European Union, which also adopted sanctions on January 10, targeting two adult children of Ortega's, as well as Nicaragua's police force and electoral body. Ortega's son and daughter, both working as presidential advisers, were among seven people targeted by Brussels for "serious human rights violations" and "undermining democracy," a European Council statement said.

"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," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. Shorty after the election, the U.S. banned Ortega and Murillo, who is also his wife, from entering the country.

Why are Nicaraguan officials being sanctioned?

In November, U.S. President Joe Biden called Nicaragua's presidential election a "pantomime" after Ortega won a fourth consecutive term. In the months prior to the election, regional and international observers had expressed concern over a clampdown on Ortega's political opponents, journalists and business leaders.

On election day in November, observers from the E.U. and Organization of American States were barred from scrutinizing the election process, and journalists were also not permitted entry into Nicaragua. Those being targeted by U.S. sanctions include the army chief of staff, the Nicaraguan defense minister, and the heads of telecommunications provider TELCOR and the state-owned mining company, ENIMINAS.

"The Ortega-Murillo regime continues its subjugation of democracy through effectuating sham elections, silencing peaceful opposition and holding hundreds of people as political prisoners," said the Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, Brian Nelson. The Treasury Department said all interests and property of the people named would be blocked in the United States. The U.S. State Department said it is also taking steps to impose visa restrictions on 116 people accused of undermining democracy in Nicaragua, Blinken said.

This move would target some mayors, prosecutors, and police, prison and military officials, barring them from entering the U.S. "The United States and our partners are sending a clear message to President Ortega, Vice President Murillo, and their inner circle that we continue to stand with the Nicaraguan people in their calls for the immediate release of these political prisoners and a return to democracy," a Treasury Department statement said. The E.U. sanctions consist of a ban on travel to the European Union and a freeze on any assets under member countries' jurisdictions.

kb/wmr (AFP, Reuters)