WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on the Nicaraguan National Police over accusations of human rights abuse, in the Trump administration’s latest move to pressure the leftist government of President Daniel Ortega.
The Treasury Department said in a statement it blacklisted Nicaragua’s police over its role in significant acts of violence, including “using live ammunition against peaceful protesters and participating in death squads, as well as carrying out extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and kidnappings.”
Three commissioners of the Nicaraguan National Police were also blacklisted: Juan Valle Valle, Luis Alberto Perez Olivas and Juan Pastor Urbina.
“The Ortega regime has utilized the Nicaraguan National Police as a tool in its campaign of violent repression against the Nicaraguan people,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.
The sanctions freeze any U.S. assets held by Nicaragua’s National Police and the three targeted commissioners and prohibit Americans from doing business with them.
The Treasury Department has previously imposed sanctions on officials of Nicaragua’s National Police for human rights abuses.
Demonstrations began in Nicaragua in 2018 over planned cuts to welfare benefits that later spread into broader protests against what critics see as Ortega’s increasingly authoritarian-style rule. The protests left more than 300 people dead, according to rights groups.
The Nicaraguan government has called previous U.S. sanctions on officials, including Ortega’s wife, Rosario Murillo, who is also the country’s vice president, a continuation of “imperial” designs on the small Central American country.
Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Lisa Lambert; Editing by Mary Milliken and Leslie Adler