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US Senate Bill Threatens to Penalize Nicaraguans Responsible for Violence


Armed pro-government militia members flash victory signs as they occupy the Monimbo neighborhood of Masaya, Nicaragua, July 18, 2018.

A bipartisan group of 10 U.S. senators introduced a bill Wednesday threatening sanctions against officials responsible for the violence in Nicaragua.

The bill targets those behind the deaths of anti-government protesters, human rights violations and corruption. It also calls for early elections and a negotiated settlement.

"What started as legitimate peaceful protests has turned into a months-long massacre as Nicaragua's citizens face state-sponsored violence from police and paramilitaries," New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Wednesday.

"We can't stay silent as [President] Daniel Ortega and [Vice President and first lady] Rosario Murillo target their own people, as evidenced by the images of students being shot while seeking refuge inside of a church."

Nine other senators, Democrats and Republicans, echoed Menendez's statement.

Meanwhile, the Organization of American States adopted a resolution Wednesday condemning the human rights abuses carried out by the Ortega government.

The resolution passed 21-3 with seven abstentions. It also calls for dialogue and early elections.

Friends and family bury 15-year-old Erick Jimenez Lopez in Masaya, Nicaragua, July 18, 2018. Jimenez Lopez was killed as government forces retook the symbolically important neighborhood of Monimbo, which had recently become a center of resistance to President Daniel Ortega's government.
Friends and family bury 15-year-old Erick Jimenez Lopez in Masaya, Nicaragua, July 18, 2018. Jimenez Lopez was killed as government forces retook the symbolically important neighborhood of Monimbo, which had recently become a center of resistance to President Daniel Ortega's government.

Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada called the motion "illegal, illegitimate and unfair."

"We have working institutions ... a constitution. That's why it is not right that this permanent council become a sort of court that no one has authorized ... to pass judgment on Nicaragua," he said.

Moncada, like Ortega, calls the protesters terrorists and coup plotters.

Anti-government protests in Nicaragua erupted in April when Ortega announced changes to the pension system. He soon gave up those plans, but police and pro-government paramilitaries have continued a violent crackdown on demonstrators.

The government says more than 200 people have been killed. Human rights groups say the death toll is much higher.

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