Two people with masks that represent Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, in handcuffs, during a protest through the main streets of San Jose, Costa Rica, against the presidential elections in their country of Nicaragua on November 7. On Monday, the United States, Canada and Britain sanction government officials over the election they say was rigged. Photo by Jeffrey Arguedas/EPA-EFE
Nov. 15 (UPI) -- The United States, Canada and Britain leveled coordinated sanctions against Nicaraguan officials on Monday in response to last week's presidential election they say was rigged by President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.
Ortega was elected to a fourth term in office on Nov. 7 but the contest was widely condemned as being a sham over repressive laws passed in the past year that resulted in the arrests of opposition figures and blocked political parties from participation.
According to the Biden administration, 39 opposition figures -- including seven potential presidential candidates, opposition members, journalists and students -- have been unjustly imprisoned since May.
"The Ortega regime is using laws and institutions to detain members of the political opposition and deprive Nicaraguans from the right to vote," Andra Gacki, director of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement.
The U.S. federal office sanctioned the the Public Ministry of Nicaragua, which is the federal public prosecutor's office, for its role in unjustly arresting and investigating presidential candidates, and nine government officials who are key supporters of the Ortega regime. Some were also implicated in violence committed against protesters in 2018.
"These nine individuals facilitate the Ortega-Murillo regime's repression, including its human rights abuses, or manage institutions that finance the undemocratic Ortega-Murillo regime or otherwise sustain it at the expense of the Nicaraguan people," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a separate statement.
Ottawa on Monday imposed its third round of sanctions in response to ongoing human rights violations in the Central American country, blacklisting 11 officials over the recent election.
Global Affairs Canada announced the sanctions in a statement, saying that for the last three years it and international partners have called for Ortega to change course, but instead it has "taken Nicaragua further down the path of authoritarianism."
"Canada continues to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political leaders, journalists, activists and other pro-democracy prisoners in Nicaragua and for the full restoration of their civil and political rights," the department said.
In Europe, Britain, who criticized Nicaragua's election as being neither free nor fair, sanctioned eight senior Nicaraguan officials, including Vice President Murillo, who is also Ortega's wife, which include travel bans and asset freezes.
"The Ortega regime is denying the Nicaraguan people their fundamental human rights," Minister for Europe and Americas Wendy Morton said in a statement. "The recent presidential election was rigged."
The sanctions come as international leaders continue to condemn the election in the Central American nation.
The European Union on Nov. 8 said the elections of the day before "complete the conversion of Nicaragua into an autocratic regime."
On Friday, the Organization of American States voted to condemn the election and ongoing human rights abuses in the country.
In the United States, President Joe Biden on Nov. 7 chastised the election as having been a "pantomime that was neither free nor fair and most certainly not democratic."
Days later, he signed a bill into law to expand the sanctions enforceable against the regime.
"The United States, in close coordination with other members of the international community, will 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," the president said.