The Biden administration Monday took aim at Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his wife and Nicaraguan vice president, Rosario Murillo, over the deteriorating situation in their country. File Photo by Rodrigo Arangua/EPA
Oct. 24 (UPI) -- The United States on Monday unleashed a slew of new punitive measures targeting Nicaragua's regime of President Daniel Ortega following his election to a fifth term in office last year.
The actions include sanctions and visa restrictions after President Joe Biden signed an executive order Monday that expands authority at the disposal of federal departments to hold the Nicaraguan regime to account for "its escalating human rights violations, continued dismantling of democratic institutions, attacks on civl society and increasing security cooperation with Russia," the White House said in a statement.
The White House under Biden has been tightening its diplomatic and financial vices on Ortega and first lady Rosario Murillo, who is also Nicaragua's vice president, following his election to a fifth term in office in November 2021 in a contest that has been widely discredited as a sham as it followed the arrests of dozens of opposition politicians and the blocking of participation of political groups.
Protests that followed were also met by a bloody government crack down.
Under the new measures, the Treasury blacklisted Nicaragua's entire gold sector and a close confident of Ortega while the State Department imposed visa restrictions on 500 Nicaraguan officials, including police, judges, prosecutors and others, as well as their family members for enabling the regime's oppression.
"Governments that deny their people's basic rights or threaten the security interests of their neighbors should not expect that their political, economic and trade relationships with the United States will remain unaffected," State Department spokesman Ned Price said to reporters Monday in Washington, D.C.
"The United States, together with our allies and partners, believes that a return to democracy and respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Nicaragua is essential, and we will use the diplomatic and economic tools available to promote accountability for the Ortega-Murillo regime."
The Treasury identified Nicaragua's General Directorate of Mines for sanctions, stating that since the Biden administration blacklisted mining state mining company Eniminas in June it has managed most mining conducted in the country and is an important piece in its gold operations.
Officials said proceeds from Nicaragua's gold industry go to the pockets of Ortega and those in his inner circle.
Reinaldo Gregorio Lenin Cerna Juarez, Ortega's former head of state security, was also sanctioned Monday on accusations of being involved in numerous acts of violence, murder and torture.
"The Ortega-Murillo regime's continued attacks on democratic actors and members of civil society and unjust detention of political prisoners demonstrate that the regime feels it is not bound by the rule of law," Brian Nelson, under secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a statement. "With President Biden's new Executive Order, we can and will use every tool at our disposal to deny the Ortega-Murillo regime the resources they need to continue to undermine democratic institutions in Nicaragua."
The State Department imposed visa restrictions on those who, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, "formulate, implement or benefit from policies or actions that undermine democratic institutions or impede the return to democracy in Nicaragua."
"No member of the Nicaraguan government nor anyone who facilitates the Ortega-Murillo Regime's abuses should believe they can travel freely to the United States," he said in a statement.
By amending a previous executive order concerning the situation in Nicaragua on Monday, Biden specifically targeted individuals and entities operating in sectors of the economy that the regime uses to fund its authoritarian and destabilizing actives.
It also allows for restrictions on certain trade and investment in the country to stifle the flow of funds to the regime.
The measures come after the Biden administration sanctioned Eniminas in June and reallocated Nicaragua's sugar quota in July.
The United States along with Britain and Canada also sanctioned Nicaraguan officials following Ortega's election.
In response to the condemnation of the election, Ortega's regime has bucked international organizations, including in late April when it closed the offices of the Organization of American States and expelled its staff from within its borders.
The OAS had passed resolutions declaring Nicaragua's elections had "no democratic legitimacy," and the regime pulled out of the organization while accusing it of being an instrument of U.S. meddling.
Earlier this month, Nicaragua was one of five countries that voted against a U.N. General Assembly resolution rejecting Russia's attempt to annex four Ukrainian regions.
The White House said Monday that as the Biden administration and its allies have sought to hold Moscow accountable for its war of aggression, Ortega has increased its relations with the Kremlin, allowing Russian military personnel and equipment in the Central American nation.