Ortega takes office in Nicaragua after announcement of sanctions

MANAGUA (AP) – Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega took office for a new five-year term, the fourth in a row and the second with his wife and Vice President Rosario Murillo, on a day marked by the announcement of new sanctions of the United States and the European Union against various officials of the Sandinista government.

Ortega, 76, and Murillo, 70, were sworn into their positions on Monday by the head of Parliament, Gustavo Porras, who hours before had been elected president of the Legislative branch again, a position he has held since 2017.

“We are going to continue fighting to defend the people, so that they have health, education and housing,” said the former Sandinista commander after swearing in his cabinet himself in a ceremony held in the Revolution Square of Managua, between Sandinista and Venezuelan flags. Nicaragua.

In a long speech, Ortega called for the cessation of the United States sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela, and assured that President Joe Biden “has more than 700 political prisoners,” alluding to the followers of former president Donald Trump who stormed the headquarters of the Capitol a year ago.

“There are 700 political prisoners, what do you expect to release them? There they are hard against them, while on the other hand they launch terrorist activities, they organize them, ”said Ortega. He also demanded from Washington the payment of a millionaire compensation that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) endorsed in 1986, for the war “against” that the United States helped finance in the 1980s.

Earlier it was announced that the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the United States Department of the Treasury sanctioned six other Nicaraguan government officials.

The Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian E. Nelson, quoted in an official statement, said that Nicaragua “continues to subjugate democracy through sham elections, silencing peaceful opposition and holding hundreds of people as political prisoners.”

Those affected are the Minister of Defense, Rosa Adelina Barahona, and the army generals Bayardo Pulido Ortiz and Bayardo Rodríguez Ruiz. All three are directors of the military pension institute.

Former army general Ramón Calderón Vindell, president of the board of directors of the state mining company ENIMINAS, as well as Celina Delgado and Nahima Díaz Flores, directors of TELCOR, were also sanctioned. Díaz is also the daughter of the national police chief, commissioner Francisco Díaz, previously sanctioned.

For his part, the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, announced that in addition to these sanctions, Washington will take measures to impose visa restrictions on 116 individuals “complicit in undermining democracy in Nicaragua, including mayors, prosecutors, university administrators, as well as officials of the police, prisons and military ”.

During the electoral campaign, between May and November 2021, the government sent more than 40 opposition leaders, activists and professionals to jail, including seven presidential hopefuls who wanted to challenge Ortega for power. All of them remain incarcerated along with 120 other “political prisoners”, according to opposition statistics that have not been confirmed by the government.

Since the end of 2017, Washington has sanctioned dozens of government officials, friends and relatives of Ortega with the blocking of assets and interests in the United States and the withdrawal of visas. Visas have also been suspended for more than a hundred judges, prosecutors, mayors and police and prison officials, as well as their families.

These sanctions were increased after April 2018, when a social revolt was put down with violence by police and paramilitaries. Since then, “the Ortega-Murillo regime has repressed political opposition and public demonstrations, resulting in more than 300 deaths, 2,000 injuries, and the imprisonment of hundreds of political and civil society actors. Since then, more than 100,000 Nicaraguans have fled the country, “the Treasury Department statement said.

The United States finally clarified that the sanctions imposed this Monday “are not intended to be permanent, but are issued to encourage a positive change in behavior” by those who support Ortega’s “authoritarian regime” and that they would be eliminated if that change occurs.

The president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, and that of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, attended the inauguration of Ortega and Murillo. Previously, the Sandinista government confirmed the visit of official delegations from China, North Korea, Iran, Russia and Syria, as well as some foreign ministers and left-wing political leaders.


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