The US and the EU stepped up pressure on Nicaragua on Monday with economic sanctions and travel bans as strongman Daniel Ortega entered a fourth term as president following a widely criticized election.
Ortega’s daughter and son, both presidential advisers, were among seven people on the EU’s list targeting those held responsible for “undermining democracy” and human rights violations, according to a press release from the European Council.
Other people sanctioned “because of the worsening situation in Nicaragua” were senior officials of the police force and the country’s electoral body, he said.
“Those targeted are responsible for serious human rights violations, including repression of civil society, support for fraudulent presidential and parliamentary elections and undermines democracy and the rule of law,” he said.
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In Washington, the US Treasury imposed sanctions on six regime officials, including two generals, the defense minister and officials from the telecommunications regulator who allegedly ran a farm of social media trolls to aid Ortega.
In addition, the State Department has imposed travel restrictions on 116 people linked to the Ortega regime, including mayors, prosecutors, security officials and universities.
The 116 were “complicit in undermining democracy in Nicaragua,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
US President Joe Biden called the Nicaraguan presidential election a “sham”, calling it “a sham election that was neither free nor fair, and certainly not democratic”.
The sanctions came on the day of the inauguration of Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, after they were declared the winners of the November 7 elections, which were internationally rejected as rigged and illegitimate.
Following electoral travel restrictions, the United States imposed visa restrictions on Ortega and Murillo while the European Union did the same for Murillo and one of Ortega’s sons.
Ahead of the November elections, Nicaraguan authorities detained nearly 40 opposition figures, including seven presidential candidates, securing victory for longtime leader Ortega and his wife.
The State Department said the regime still held 170 political prisoners.
“We are undertaking these economic sanctions and visa restrictions to promote accountability for the authoritarianism and growing abuses of the Ortega-Murillo regime,” Blinken said in a statement.
“President Ortega is investing himself today for a new presidential mandate, but the predetermined election he organized on November 7 does not give him a new democratic mandate; only free and fair elections can do that.
The EU’s sanctions list on Monday included Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council for its handling of last year’s elections, its leader, its deputy leader and a senior official who served as interim leader in 2018.
The country’s telecommunications company has also been listed for its role “in silencing the independent media” and the spread of “disinformation” alongside its boss.
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