United States senators, Jim Risch and Robert Menendez, urged US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, and the Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, to implement more sanctions against the Ortega Murillo regime. The republican and democratic party senators believe that with more sanctions the leverage will be maximized to pressure the dictatorship to carry out deep reforms that will lead to free and fair elections in Nicaragua.
“We write to express our deep concern about the Ortega regime’s blatant disregard for human rights and systematic dismantling of democratic institutions in Nicaragua, and to ask that specific actions be taken immediately to reverse this dangerous course,” says part of the letter sent by the senators to Pompeo and Mnuchin.
The senators advocated for greater diplomatic efforts to ensure the immediate release of all political prisoners, including those identified by the Organization of American States and the democratic organizations in Nicaragua.
Menendez and Risch note in their letter that if the United States applies the necessary measures (sanctions), these “should encourage the Ortega regime to seek electoral reforms in a timely manner that include: the appointment of independent new magistrates to the Supreme Electoral Council, the restoration of a 50% + one threshold for the presidential elections, the establishment of a second round of voting if the electoral threshold is not reached, the establishment of a detailed electoral calendar and the deployment of credible international and domestic electoral observers.”
Likewise, they also insisted that it is fundamental for the United States to continue supporting the efforts of the democratic opposition in Nicaragua and the OAS to encourage Ortega to restore the rule of law and democracy in the country.
“A strategy of sanctions that incentivizes timely progress in these matters will encourage all sides to focus on a meaningful transition to democracy in Nicaragua,” both senators said in their letter.
The last sanctions
Menendez and Risch applauded the steps taken to date by the Trump administration to address the Ortega regime’s brutality, pursuant to the Nicaragua Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act of 2018 and Executive Order 13851.
The US sanction against the eldest son of the presidential couple, Rafael Ortega Murillo, in December, shows that the United States maintains a steady policy of “pressure by drops” against the Ortega regime.
Ortega Murillo was sanctioned along with the Nicaraguan Petroleum Distributor (DNP Petronic), the security company “El Goliat” and the investment company “Zanzibar,” for “money laundering and support for corruption.”
The eldest son of Ortega used DNP, a business that he acquired with public funds and later transferred to the family, to enrich himself “from non-competitive contracts with Nicaraguan governmental institutions.”
Rafael Ortega Murillo is the sixteenth Ortega official sanctioned by the United States. On November 7, Ramon Avellan, deputy director of the Police, magistrate Lumberto Campbell, President of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), and Roberto Lopez, director of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) joined the dishonorable list.
Bernie Sanders: “Ortega became a dictator”
On January 13 in an interview with The New York Times, the Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, acknowledged that Ortega became a dictator since he came to power. Sanders, who has historically supported leftist movements in Latin America, responded that the president of Nicaragua “is a good exception to the rule,” of the socialist governments that have brought about change in the region.
“He came to power a long time ago in the 80s and since then he became a dictator, and I think that is unfortunate,” expressed Sanders, moving away from his benevolent attitude towards the authoritarian drift showed in previous years.