On October 9, the US Treasury Department published news of three additions to the list of sanctioned Ortega functionaries / entities. The new additions are Attorney General Ana Julia Guido and the private secretary for national policies Paul Oquist Kelley. Sanctions were also imposed on the Rural Savings and Loan Cooperative (Caruna).
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo commented on the additions. “Today’s designation of Guido and Oquist promotes accountability for the Ortega regime and those who are attempting to further its atrocious activities.” He added: “the designation of the cooperative Caruna closes off another tool of the regime.”
The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) confirmed the sanctions, imposed according to Executive Order 13851. This order, imposed by the Trump regime, involves “Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Nicaragua.” OFAC describes the sanctions as “an effort to target key financial operations and government functionaries who continue undermining democracy in Nicaragua.”
In a second communique, Stephen Mnuchin, US Treasury Secretary, also commented on the sanctions. “The Ortega regime continues to abuse government resources for its members’ personal gain and ignore the Nicaraguan people’s calls for reform,” Mnuchin added that the US government remains committed to seeking out and exposing those who facilitate the regime’s “blatant corruption.”
On December 21, 2018, the United States Treasury sanctioned Roberto Rivas for corruption. Since then, over 20 Ortega functionaries joined the list of sanctioned. Among them are Vice President Rosario Murillo and three of the presidential couple’s sons: Laureano, Rafael and Juan Carlos Ortega Murillo.
Last July, along with Juan Carlos Ortega, the OFAC sanctioned Jose Mojica Mejia, well-known front man for the presidential family. At the same time, key businesses linked to the Ortega family were targeted for sanctions. Among them were Difuso Communications, which the Ortega sons managed and Mundo Digital. Both companies were singled out for “distributing the regime’s propaganda and engaging in money laundering.”
With the inclusion of Guido and Oquist, the list of sanctioned Ortega regime functionaries and operatives now numbers 24. In addition, eight companies have now received sanctions from the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
The case against Ana Julia Guido and Paul Oquist
The Treasury Department explained that Attorney General Ana Julia Guido formed part of a special unit of prosecutors. This group “worked with the designated National Police to fabricate cases against political prisoners and their families.”
The Treasury Department bulletin continued: “the unit has spent the past two years bringing charges against prisoners detained for peaceful protest, including the young water carriers (aguadores) who were detained for delivering water to mothers of regime victims on a hunger strike in Masaya, Nicaragua in 2019.”
They were referring to the 16 young people who were arrested in November 2019 and released on December 31. More than a hundred other political prisoners remain in the regime’s prisons. Some have been there for over two years.
Paul Hervert Oquist Kelley is the regime’s private secretary for national policies. He has represented the Nicaraguan government internationally in a variety of roles. The OFAC press release notes: “[Oquist] plays a lead role in spreading disinformation to cover up the regime’s crimes and misdeeds of horrific human rights abuses.”
Oquist, 77, was born in the United States and according to his bio at least four decades later took on Nicaraguan citizenship. It does not mention if he gave up his US citizenship when becoming Ortega’s assistant.
“In numerous interviews with international English-language media and in meetings with foreign representatives, Oquist has spread the Ortega regime’s false narratives and propaganda. Additionally, Oquist has pled the Ortegas’ case internationally with an unrelenting flow of lies to conceal or justify the regime’s abuses.” These allegations appeared in the U.S. Treasury Department’s press release regarding the sanctions.
The sanctions against Caruna
The latest additions to the list of sanctions included the Rural Savings and Loan Cooperative (Caruna). The Treasury Department describes Caruna as a financial institution that operates outside differently than the traditional banks. As such, it isn’t subject to the traditional regulatory oversight.
Caruna “was designated for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services in support of, Banco Corporativo, S.A. (Bancorp), an entity whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to E.O. 13851.”
The press release added: “Caruna has served as a tool for Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to siphon money from ALBA de Nicaragua, S.A.’s (Albanisa) $2.4 billion in oil trusts and credit portfolios.” OFAC maintains that the regime used these funds “as a financial resource to remain in power and pay a network of patronage.”
Bancorp as well as Caruna, the Treasury Department alleges, has benefitted from these transfers. “Regime officials, including those sanctioned by OFAC, are taking advantage of Caruna’s lack of regulatory oversight to invest in property and shelter their ill-gotten gains.”
Of the 24 Ortega functionaries sanctioned by the US Treasury, nine also received sanctions by Canada. The European Union and Swiss government sanctioned six of them.
These new sanctions from the U.S. were imposed just one day after European Parliament deputies initiated a similar request. On October 8, the European Parliament approved a resolution to broaden EU sanctions against Ortega regime functionaries. The measure received the backing of 609 of the 694 deputies. Their request for broadened sanctions included the presidential couple. The text of the resolution accuses Ortega and Murillo of directing repressive attacks against those opposing them. These attacks, they note, are ongoing since the April 2018 explosion of social protest.
The sanctions from the US Treasury Department mean that “all property and interests in property of these individuals and entity that are in the United States or in the possession or control of US persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC.”
The press release concludes: “In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by such persons are also blocked. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.”
The US Secretary of State also released a Press Statement on the sanctions. “The United States will continue to take the necessary steps to support the Nicaraguan people and pressure the Ortega regime to cease repression, respect human rights, and allow the conditions for free and fair elections that would restore democracy to Nicaragua.”