On Monday, July 12, the Biden administration imposed new US visa restrictions on 100 Nicaraguan officials of the Ortega regime. Among them were National Assembly members, prosecutors, judges, and some of the president’s family members. The decision was announced by United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
The US diplomatic head explained that the decision is intended to affect those who “advanced the Ortega-Murillo regime’s assault on democracy. We will continue to use economic and diplomatic tools to support Nicaraguan democracy,” Blinken’s statement read.
The State Department justified the decision against, “the Nicaraguans believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy, including those with responsibility for, or complicity in, the suppression of peaceful protests or abuse of human rights, and the immediate family members of such persons. “
The US government accused the 100 functionaries of enabling the regime through the “arrest” of 26 political opponents and the approval of repressive laws, “including electoral legislation, a ‘cybercrimes’ law, a ‘foreign agents’ law, and a ‘sovereignty’ law, which have all served to restrict and criminalize freedom of speech, dissent, and political participation.”
In addition, the targeted regime officials had supported actions “seeking to harass and silence civil society and independent media”; and “undermining democratic institutions and processes in Nicaragua”.
“These visa revocations demonstrate that the United States will promote accountability not only for regime leaders but also for officials who enable the regime’s assaults on democracy and human rights,” the press release concluded.
A follow-up to recent sanctions
The new US actions were the second significant measures recently taken by the Biden administration against the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. They occur at a moment when the Central American country is experiencing a serious human rights crisis, due to the regime’s intensified repression. This repression has been principally carried out by officials and functionaries of the Justice system, dominated by the Sandinista strongman.
Since the end of May 2021, the regime has steadily increased its intimidation of journalists and opposition leaders. Up to the moment, there are 26 prominent figures in prison, including six who were candidates in the upcoming presidential elections, scheduled for next November. The newly imprisoned also include students and rural activists and business leaders.
These 26 add to the already existing group of Nicaraguan political prisoners, estimated at over 120. The latter are mostly grassroots activists, serving time under trumped-up criminal charges.
The suspension of US visas follows other sanctions imposed on June 9 of this year. Those sanctions targeted Camila Ortega, daughter of the presidential couple and official presidential advisor; Edwin Castro, FSLN majority leader in the National Assembly; and Central Bank president Ovidio Reyes. The sanctions have been furiously repudiated by the local Nicaraguan authorities.
Both sanctions and visa restrictions are occurring in the context of an international demand for free elections in Nicaragua, which the dictatorship has totally rejected.
Contrasting with the call for genuine elections, the FSLN-dominated justice system proceeded to jail popular opposition figures under the pretext of an investigation for alleged treason to the nation. The imprisonments occur within the framework of recently passed Law #1055, which punishes those who applaud sanctions imposed by the international community.
The human rights crisis in Nicaragua burst into public view in April 2018, when peaceful anti-government protests against the Ortega regime were violently repressed. The regime’s violent response to the citizen discontent left a toll of 328 dead and 2,000 wounded, according to reports from national and international human rights organizations. The reports spoke of the regime’s having committed crimes against humanity.