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On Ortega’s inauguration day, US, EU hit Nicaraguan officials with sanctions

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo gesture during a march called ‘We walk for peace and life. Justice’ in Managua, Nicaragua, September 5, 2018. (File photo by Reuters)

The United States and the European Union have imposed new sanctions on a number of Nicaraguan officials over what they claimed to be "sham elections" in the Latin American country.

The sanctions by the US Treasury Department were issued against six Nicaraguan officials, including the minister of defense, on Monday as part of a coordinated action with the EU that aimed to ramp up pressure on President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.

The US Treasury accused Ortega’s government in a statement of “state acts of violence, disinformation and targeting of independent media” during the general elections in November last year.

The statement claimed that the Nicaraguan government “continues its subjugation of democracy through effectuating sham elections, silencing peaceful opposition, and holding hundreds of people as political prisoners.”

The Treasury action also targeted officials of the Nicaraguan military, the Nicaraguan Institute of Telecommunications and Mail and the state-owned Nicaraguan Mining Company. The property and interests of the six individuals, who have served Ortega’s government since 2007, will be blocked in the United States under the imposed sanctions.

In a separate statement, the European Union said new travel bans and asset freezes were imposed on family members of Ortega and Murillo, including a daughter and son, as well as police, the Supreme Electoral Council and the company overseeing telecommunications and postal services.

“Those targeted are responsible for serious human rights violations, including repression of civil society, supporting the fraudulent presidential and parliamentary elections and undermining democracy and the rule of law,” the EU claimed in the statement.

The sanctions came exactly on the inauguration day of Ortega, who overwhelmingly won the November 7 presidential election for a fourth consecutive term.

The United States has long been accused of interfering in the internal affairs of Nicaragua, a Latin American country it occupied from 1912 to 1933 as part of the Banana Wars.

Washington and the EU have already imposed sanctions against Ortega's family members and allies amid a series of US-provoked anti-government protests in the lead-up to the recent election.

Ortega, 75, who helped depose the right-wing Somoza family dictatorship in the late 1970s, has been in power for 15 consecutive years. He has ruled alongside his 70-year-old wife, the government’s official spokeswoman, since early 2017. Ortega served as president in 1980s before losing power in 1990. He, however, staged a stunning comeback in 2007.

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