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Nicaraguan officials hit with US visa restrictions

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The US has imposed visa restrictions on 100 Nicaraguan officials accused of involvement in a government crackdown on political opponents and rights abuses. The President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, has been widely blasted by world leaders as his regime targets his opposition with a wave of arrests. 


Ortega’s crackdown comes ahead of elections in Nicaragua in November. Recently, the brother of opposition leader Cristiana Chamorro – who has already been detained – was arrested by Nicaraguan police under the country’s new, so-called sovereignty law.

A statement issued by the US Department of State (DoS), said: “The US visa restrictions will affect 100 members of the Nicaraguan assembly and judicial system, including prosecutors and judges, as well as some of their family members.”


US visas revoked

The DoS went on to say that US visas already held by designated individuals have been revoked, but did not disclose which officials were subject to the restrictions.

More than two dozen Nicaraguan presidential hopefuls, opposition leaders, student activists and other figures have already been arrested over the past month as Ortega’s government unrelentingly seeks to quash those who threaten his position in power.

The long-time President of Nicaragua has justified the arrests by claiming that his administration is ‘prosecuting criminals who are plotting a coup against him’.

However, civil society and human rights groups have accused the 75-year-old President – who governed Nicaragua between 1979 and 1990 and returned to power in 2007 and has since won two re-election bids – of increasing authoritarianism.


International pressure

In a June statement issued by the Americas director at Human Rights Watch, José Miguel Vivanco, he said: “The gravity and intensification of the Ortega government’s brutal crackdown on critics and members of the opposition in recent weeks require a redoubling of international pressure.”

“It is essential for the UN Secretary-General to build on existing UN action by bringing this situation to the attention of the Security Council.” he added.

Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, last month urged the Nicaraguan authorities to uphold the country’s international human rights obligations and release detained opposition leaders.

However, arrests have continued. Prominent student leader, Lesther Aleman – who was instrumental in leading mass protests against the government in 2018 - was arrested recently.

The situation in Nicaragua has also drawn condemnation from around the world. Josep Borrell, the European Union’s top diplomat, said: “More restrictive measures are needed against Ortega’s Sandinista government.


Diplomatic and economic tools

In a statement, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “The Biden administration will continue to use the diplomatic and economic tools at our disposal to push for the release of political prisoners and to support Nicaraguans’ calls for greater freedom, accountability, and free and fair elections.”

Back on June 9, four Ortega supporting Nicaraguan officials, including the President’s daughter, were hit by sanctions after they were accused of undermining democracy and abusing human rights.

Presidential elections in Nicaragua are expected to be held on November 7.


US visa sanctions continue 

Nicaragua becomes the latest country to be hit by US visa sanctions amid political unrest. In June, similar sanctions were imposed on Ethiopia over atrocities in the Tigray region of the country. can help with US employment-based visas

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