US to announce new sanctions against Nicaragua “very soon”, official says

FILE PHOTO: A woman watches a televised speech by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega at an event where he agreed with his Honduran counterpart Juan Orlando Hernandez to define their borders in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, including the Gulf de Fonseca, which they share with El Salvador, in Managua, Nicaragua, on October 27, 2021. REUTERS / Maynor Valenzuela / File Photo reuters_tickers

This content was published on November 9, 2021 – 20:18

By Matt Spetalnick and Daina Beth Solomon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration plans to announce new U.S. sanctions and other punitive actions “very soon” in response to the re-election of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega in a vote that Washington denounced as a sham, a senior State Department official told Reuters. Tuesday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the measures would be the first in a series of measures the US government will “step up over time.”

Washington expects a strong resolution against Ortega when the Organization of American States meets this week in Guatemala, but is unlikely to use the event to officially call for Nicaragua’s suspension from the bloc, the official said.

President Joe Biden is expected to sign congressional legislation aimed at increasing pressure on Nicaragua in the coming days or hours, the official said.

Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla leader, landed a fourth consecutive term in the elections of Sunday after jailing political rivals ahead of a vote that drew international condemnation.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday that Washington would coordinate with other governments and was prepared to use a range of tools, including sanctions and visa restrictions against accomplices in “undemocratic acts”.

“We will see some actions that we take very soon,” the State Department official said. “I don’t want to leave people with the impression that this will be some kind of announcement and that it will be done… It will continue to last over time.”

The official declined to specify the types of sanctions underway. But a US government source said last week that the initial targets are likely to be individuals, members of the security forces and government-controlled businesses.

Ricardo Zuniga, U.S. special envoy to Central America, told reporters the United States was evaluating measures to hold the Ortega government accountable. He declined to say whether Ortega could be personally sanctioned.

Ortega on Monday evening ridiculed his American critics as “Yankee imperialists” and accused them of trying to undermine Nicaragua’s electoral process. Cuba, Venezuela and Russia have all offered their support to Ortega.


Twenty-six OAS members voted last month on a resolution that alarmed Ortega’s actions but seven countries abstained. Washington is working to forge a more united position in the bloc’s general assembly.

The State Department official said “realistically, in terms of votes,” now is not the time to call for Nicaragua’s suspension.

When asked if Nicaragua could be expelled, Zuniga said it would be important for OAS members to jointly define the next steps, calling the expulsion “a very serious matter.” Biden collaborators are wary because such action against Cuba in the 1960s failed to change the course of Havana.

Biden is on the verge of enacting the so-called RENACER law, which received bipartisan approval last week in the United States House of Representatives, the official said.

The legislation provides for sanctions against Nicaraguans found responsible for unfair elections, increased coordination of such measures with the European Union and Canada, and increased US surveillance of international loans to Managua.

Zuniga said the elements of the bill correspond well to the views of the administration. It would also require reports from the US government on allegations of corruption by the Ortega family, human rights violations by the security forces, and Russian activities in the country, including military sales.

In addition, the administration is invited to review Nicaragua’s participation in the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which grants preferential treatment to exports to the United States.

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Washington and Daina Beth Solomon in San Jose, Costa Rica; Editing by Howard Goller and Rosalba O’Brien)

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