Skip to content

The United States tightens sanctions against Nicaragua

The United States is drastically increasing pressure on the authoritarian government of Daniel Ortega in Nicaraguathreatening to prohibit US citizens from doing business with the Central American country’s gold industry, creating the possibility of imposing trade restrictions and withdrawing the visas of some 500 close associates of the government.

The actions, included in an executive order signed Monday by President Joe Biden, are the latest and perhaps the most aggressive actions by the United States to punish the former Sandinista guerrilla leader for his continued attacks on democracy and human rights in the country. Central American and for its security cooperation with Russia.

Look: Hurricane Julia leaves at least 30 dead in Central America | PHOTOS

Previous sanctions have gone against Ortega, against his wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo, and against family members and close associates. But neither measure has affected the power of the president, whose most recent target has been the Catholic Church. In August, Nicaraguan security forces raided the residence of a bishop, arresting him and other members of the clergy.

Biden’s order significantly expands another issued under the presidency of Donald Trump, where he declares violations of democratic norms, attacks against the rule of law and the use of violence against opponents as a threat to the national security of the United States.

Along with sanctions announced by the Treasury Department, the executive order prohibits Americans from doing business with the Nicaraguan gold industry. It is the first time that the United States has focused on a specific sector of the Nicaraguan economy and in the future it could be expanded to include other industries considered sources of financing for the Ortega government, said officials who asked not to be identified.

The executive order also paves the way for the United States to restrict investment and trade with Nicaragua, measures that recall the severe embargo imposed in the 1980s during the first Sandinista government of Ortega, after the bloody civil war.

“The Ortega-Murillo regime’s continued attacks against democratic actors and members of civil society, and the unjust detention of political prisoners, demonstrate that the regime does not respect the rule of law,” said Brian E. Nelson, Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

“We can and will use all the tools at our disposal to deny the Ortega-Murillo regime the resources it needs to undermine democratic institutions,” he added.

Monday’s actions could herald the start of a new offensive against the Nicaraguan economy, an action that the Biden administration has so far been reluctant to take so as not to aggravate the economic hardships of the Central American country and not cause more emigration. For the fiscal year ending in September, US border agents encountered Nicaraguans at the border 164,000 times, more than triple the number of all of 2021.

At the same time, frustration has grown in Washington over the way in which Nicaragua’s economic elites have remained silent in the face of the Ortega government’s repression.

Biden’s decision to focus on the Nicaraguan gold industry could deprive the Ortega government of one of its main sources of financing. Gold was the country’s main export in 2020 and the country, already the largest producer of the precious metal in Central America, seeks to double production in the next five years.

Among the foreign investors active in Nicaragua is Condor Gold, whose CEO Mark Child was pictured with Ortega in September at a presentation prepared by the UK-based company.

“Basically, he totally supports the project,” Child said in a March interview after a 90-minute meeting with Ortega. “That meeting … basically gives the green light to the construction project and its financing and de-risks it.”

Condor, listed on the London and Toronto stock exchanges, has licenses to build three mines, the most advanced of which would hold 602,000 ounces of gold worth $900 million at current prices. Condor is partly owned by an American mining engineer who has worked for decades in Nicaragua.

On Monday, shares of Condor rose 2 cents (3.8%) after the announcement of the sanctions. However, another Toronto-listed company with mining activities in Nicaragua, Caliber Mining Corp, fell 17 cents (17%).

The Vancouver-based firm has several mining projects in Nicaragua, with an estimated content of 2.9 million ounces of gold.

As part of the actions taken on Monday, the Treasury Department also froze the assets in the United States of Reinaldo Lenin Cerna, whom it described as an adviser to Ortega. According to the Treasury Department, Cerna was the head of state security during Ortega’s first presidency and helped in the assassination of former dictator Anastasio Somoza’s security chief.

Also, the State Department will withdraw the visas of more than 500 Nicaraguan individuals and their family members who work for the government to formulate or implement policies that undermine or benefit from democracy in the country, the officials said. Previously, the United States had frozen the assets of the Defense Minister and other members of the security forces linked to the closure of more than 1,000 non-governmental organizations.

Previously, the Biden administration had sanctioned the state mining company and modified the Nicaraguan sugar quota, withdrawing a subsidy worth millions of dollars a year.

Nicaraguans began migrating in 2018, initially to neighboring Costa Rica, when Ortega began violently suppressing protests. In 2021, security forces began arresting opposition leaders, including several who were emerging as candidates against Ortega in that year’s elections. Lacking a serious opponent, he easily won a fourth straight five-year term and more Nicaraguans fled the country.

Source: Elcomercio

Share this article:
globalhappenings news.jpg
most popular