August 3, 2021

US Treasury sanctions four relatives of President Ortega

The list of Daniel Ortega’s relatives blacklisted by the United States has grown, after a political streak marked by the arbitrary arrest of several opposition candidates for the November presidential election. On Wednesday, June 9, the US Treasury decided to sanction four members of the entourage of the President of Nicaragua, including his daughter, Camila Antonia Ortega Murillo, coordinator of the Commission for the Creative Economy, and the President of the Central Bank, Leonardo Reyes. A member of the country’s electoral commission and an army general are also among those identified by Washington as active supporters of Mr. Ortega.

Now, these senior officials no longer have access to the properties and businesses they own on American soil. Any entity operating in the United States no longer has the right to carry out any financial transaction with them. “It’s a way to hit the regime in the wallet, explains Gilles Bataillon, sociologist at the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences and specialist in Nicaragua. These Sandinista elites are fascinated by theamerican way of life and have money and property in the United States. “

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In a statement, the US Treasury said it was continuing its policy of sanctioning those who “Support the Ortega regime”, guilty according to him of having “Undermined democracy, violated the human rights of civilians and implemented repressive laws with serious economic consequences”. Mme Ortega Murillo is notably criticized for her role as an advisor to her father, president, and to her mother, Rosario Murillo, vice-president since January 2017. As for Mr. Reyes, the American authorities accuse him of having, as a as head of the central bank, enforced a law ensuring the state even tighter control over an economy plagued by corrupt authorities.

Wave of arrests

Beyond those responsible for these sanctions, the Biden administration wishes to express its disapproval of the repression suffered by Nicaraguan opposition figures. In recent days, Mr. Ortega’s regime has in fact arrested four candidates in the next presidential election, scheduled for November 7. First victim of this wave of arrests: Cristiana Chamorro, influential journalist and daughter of former president Violeta Barrios de Chamorro (1990-1997).

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His house arrest, Wednesday, June 2, aroused great emotion among defenders of human rights and democracy. The prospect of a vote banned from the opposition forces seems more and more realistic. Such a situation would be a first since the return of Mr. Ortega, leader from 1979 to 1990, then returned to power in 2007,

Shortly after the sanctions were formalized, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Twitter demanded the “Immediate release” opposition leaders, specifying that the new measures were intended to punish “Those who carry out attacks against the Nicaraguan people”. The same day, the Nicaraguan authorities continued their wave of arrests by detaining a new opponent, José Pallais, a member of an alliance of parties also banned from election in November.

It therefore seems that these sanctions cannot stop the authoritarian abuses of Mr. Ortega’s regime in the short term. However, Gilles Bataillon believes that they are likely to weaken it more durably, “By making things more complicated for him from a practical point of view” and ultimately creating internal tensions.

With these sanctions, the Biden administration is part of a certain continuity with Donald Trump (2017-2021). During his tenure, the former US president also took action against important members of the regime, including Vice President Rosario Murillo, who was banned from trading or owning property on American soil in the aftermath of the bloody crackdown on demonstrations in the United States. opposition from spring 2018.

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After the election of Mr. Biden, the Nicaraguan opposition had counted on the elected Democrat to keep the pressure on Mr. Ortega. Five months after taking office, the administration of the new American president signs its first major decision against the Nicaraguan regime.