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US slaps sanctions on Nicaragua’s gold industry in latest push against Ortega

Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega (File Photo)

The US has slapped sanctions on Nicaragua's mining industry for “financing” the government of President Daniel Ortega, in the latest push against the Latin American nation's leader who won a fourth consecutive term as president in November 2021.

US President Joe Biden’s executive order gives the US Treasury Department “the authority to target certain persons that operate or have operated in the gold sector of the Nicaraguan economy”, the department said in a statement on Monday.

It also allows Washington to bar new US investments in Nicaraguan economic sectors, imports of certain products from the Central American nation, and exports by US citizens of certain items to Nicaragua, it said, among other potential measures.

The Treasury Department also froze the US assets of Reinaldo Lenin Cerna, who it describes as a close adviser to Ortega. According to the Treasury Department, Cerna was the head of state security during Ortega's first presidency and a “close confidant” of Ortega.

Previous rounds of sanctions have focused on Ortega, his wife, and vice president, Rosario Murillo, and members of their family and inner circle.

“The Ortega-Murillo regime’s continued attacks on democratic actors and members of civil society and unjust detention of political prisoners demonstrate that the regime feels it is not bound by the rule of law,” Treasury official Brian E Nelson claimed in the statement.

“With President Biden’s new Executive Order, we can and will use every tool at our disposal to deny the Ortega-Murillo regime the resources they need to continue to undermine democratic institutions in Nicaragua."

The Central American country's economy grew by 10.3 percent in 2021, according to data from the World Bank. 

Gold was Nicaragua’s main export last year, with total shipments abroad of the precious metal amounting to $867.6 million, and 79 percent of that going to the United States, according to central bank data.

The White House and the US Department of State also announced an amendment to the Executive Order on Nicaragua that expands sanctions authorities, including specific trade-related measures for Nicaragua.

“While the United States and our allies continue to take steps to hold Russia accountable for its war of aggression in Ukraine, the Ortega-Murillo regime has increased its cooperation with Moscow by authorizing the continued presence of Russian military personnel and equipment in the country.” White House said in a statement.

As it shows, Ortega's standing on the other side of the Ukraine-Russia conflict has angered US officials and has provoked them to impose cruel sanctions on the Latin American nation under the false pretext of supporting human rights.

The Department of State also in a statement announced that visa restrictions have been imposed on over 500 Nicaraguan individuals and their family members, which suspends entry into the United States as immigrants and non-immigrants of members of the Government of Nicaragua and other persons who formulate, implement or benefit from policies or actions that undermine democratic institutions or impede the return to democracy in Nicaragua. 

“No member of the Nicaraguan government or anyone who facilitates the Ortega-Murillo regime’s abuses should believe they can travel freely to the United States,” the statement added.

The United States has long been accused of interfering in the internal affairs of Nicaragua. Washington and the EU have already imposed sanctions against Ortega's family members and allies.

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 2007.

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