U.S. sanctions Nicaraguan officials as Ortega takes office again

U.S. Treasury slaps sanctions on more Nicaraguan officials as President Daniel Ortega is to be sworn in after questionable election

The U.S. Treasury Department announced it would freeze the U.S. assets of the defense secretary and five other officials in the military, telecommunications and mining sectors. Like dozens of Nicaraguan officials who have already been sanctioned, U.S. citizens will be barred from dealing with them.

The State Department also imposed visa restrictions on 116 individuals associated with the Ortega regime, “including mayors, prosecutors, university administrators, and police, prison and military officials.”

With all government institutions firmly in Ortega’s grasp and the opposition exiled, jailed or hidden, the 75-year-old leader has dented hopes that the country will soon return to a democratic path. Instead, he appeared ready to test the resolve of the international community and continued to scoff at their targeted sanctions and statements of disapproval.

The State Department said Nicaragua “continues to hold 170 political prisoners, many of whom lack adequate food and proper medical care.”

Since the vote, the Ortega regime has been hit with rounds of condemnation and sanctions.

Nicaragua’s government announced its withdrawal from the Organization of American States in November after the regional body accused Ortega’s government of repression and election rigging.

The OAS General Assembly voted to condemn the election, saying it “was not free, fair or transparent and lacked democratic legitimacy”.

Twenty-five countries in the Americas voted in favor of the resolution, while seven countries, including Mexico, abstained. Only Nicaragua voted against.

Ortega’s defiant stance has left Latin American governments in a dilemma over whether to send representatives to the inauguration.

For example, the Mexican government mulled over Sunday and Monday whether it would send people.

On Sunday, Mexico said it would send a mid-level foreign relations officer, then said it would not. President Andres Manuel López Obrador said Monday he was unsure, then corrected and said he would send a chargé d’affaires to the Mexican embassy in Managua.

The list expected to attend includes representatives from China, North Korea, Iran, Russia and Syria.