US warns of new sanctions over 'undemocratic' Nicaragua election

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Police officers walk in line while heading to cast their votes in Nicaragua's presidential election won by longtime leader Daniel Ortega -- and slammed by the United States and other powers as a sham (AFP/Oswaldo RIVAS)

The United States warned Monday of additional sanctions against Nicaragua after President Daniel Ortega was declared the winner of an election widely denounced as a sham.

"We will continue to use diplomacy, coordinated actions with regional allies and partners, sanctions and visa restrictions, as appropriate, to promote accountability for those complicit in supporting the Ortega-Murillo government's undemocratic acts," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Nicaraguan authorities have detained seven would-be presidential challengers since June, virtually assuring a fourth consecutive term by Ortega and the vice president, his wife Rosario Murillo.

"While Ortega and Murillo may remain entrenched in power, Nicaragua's undemocratic election does not and cannot provide them any democratic mandate to govern," Blinken said.

He said the United States would work with other democracies, including through a meeting this week of the Organization of American States, to "press for a return to democracy through free and fair elections and full respect for human rights in Nicaragua."

"This must begin with the immediate and unconditional release of those wrongfully imprisoned," Blinken said.

The United States has already slapped sanctions on Ortega, Murillo and a number of Nicaraguans in their inner circle over actions in the runup to Sunday's election.

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