US sanctions Nicaragua officials over 'sham' elections

·2-min read
Nicaraguan soldiers wait in line to vote in the general election on November 7, 2021 (AFP/Oswaldo RIVAS)

The United States on Monday announced new sanctions against Nicaragua government officials and the public prosecutor over recent "sham" elections that saw long-time leader Daniel Ortega win a fourth straight presidential term.

The US Treasury "designated the Public Ministry of Nicaragua (the federal public prosecutor's office)... as well as nine officials of the Government of Nicaragua in response to the sham national elections," a statement from the department said.

Britain and Canada also announced new sanctions against several prominent Nicaraguans, including the country's first lady and vice-president.

In the months ahead of the November 7 election, Nicaraguan authorities detained nearly 40 opposition figures, including seven would-be presidential challengers, virtually assuring victory for Ortega and the vice president, his wife Rosario Murillo.

The United States said some of the officials targeted by the new sanctions "were appointed to their government positions by Ortega and are key supporters of the regime and its anti-democratic policies."

They also include several officials implicated in a violent crackdown on massive protests against Ortega's regime in 2018 that claimed more than 300 lives in Central America's poorest country, the statement added.

"This action targets those who are repressing Nicaraguans for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms," the Treasury said.

Washington, which had already slapped sanctions on Ortega, Murillo and a number of Nicaraguans in their inner circle over actions in the runup to the election, had threatened new sanctions after Ortega was declared the election winner.

President Joe Biden slammed the election as a "pantomime" and said Washington would "use all diplomatic and economic tools at our disposal to support the people of Nicaragua and hold accountable the Ortega-Murillo government and those that facilitate its abuses."

Monday's action freezes any assets the sanctioned officials may have in the United States and they are barred from accessing the American financial system.

"The Ortega regime is using laws and institutions to detain members of the political opposition and deprive Nicaraguans from the right to vote," said Office of Foreign Assets Control Director Andrea Gacki, in the Treasury statement.

"The United States is sending an unequivocal message to President Ortega, Vice President Murillo, and their inner circle that we stand with the Nicaraguan people in their calls for reform and a return to democracy."

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