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US Sanctions Nicaragua Over ‘Sham’ Election

A man watches a televised national address by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, at his home in Managua, June 23, 2021.

In the wake of the recent election in Nicaragua in which President Daniel Ortega was elected for a fourth consecutive time, the Biden administration on Monday announced sanctions on several Nicaraguan officials, calling the elections a “sham.”

The U.S. cited the Public Ministry of Nicaragua, which is the country’s prosecutor’s office, saying that in the runup to the November 7 elections it "unjustly arrested and investigated presidential candidates and prevented them from running for office, thereby undermining democracy in Nicaragua," the Treasury Department said in a statement.

The moves all but guaranteed an election win by Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, who is also vice president.

President Joe Biden talks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on Nov. 8, 2021.
President Joe Biden talks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on Nov. 8, 2021.

U.S. President Joe Biden called the elections “pantomime'' and said he would "use all diplomatic and economic tools at our disposal to support the people of Nicaragua and hold accountable the Ortega-Murillo government and those that facilitate its abuses."

Also sanctioned were nine government officials, including Salvador Mansell Castrillo, minister of energy and mines; Jose Adrian Chavarria Montenegro, vice minister of finance and public credit; Mohamed Farrara Lashtar, who serves as ambassador to Middle Eastern countries.

"The Ortega regime is using laws and institutions to detain members of the political opposition and deprive Nicaraguans from the right to vote," Office of Foreign Assets Control Director Andrea Gacki said in the Treasury statement. "The United States is sending an unequivocal message to President Ortega, Vice President Murillo, and their inner circle that we stand with the Nicaraguan people in their calls for reform and a return to democracy."

The U.S. had already sanctioned Ortega, Murillo and some of their inner circle and promised more sanctions should Ortega win.

Citing previous sanctions that seemed not to deter Ortega, analysts doubt the new round of sanctions will have any effect, Reuters reported.

The U.S. was not alone in condemning the elections.

The Organization of American States on Friday adopted a resolution saying the elections "lack democratic legitimacy."

Those sanctioned will have any assets in the U.S. frozen, and they will be barred from accessing the U.S. financial system.