The U.S. imposed sanctions Tuesday on Nicaragua’s vice president and its national security adviser for corruption and for their violent repression of pro-democracy protesters, as President Trump ramps up economic and diplomatic pressure on the so-called “troika of tyranny” in Latin America.
Mr. Trump signed an executive order targeting the government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega regime and its supporters, who “continue to engage in rampant corruption, dismantling of democratic institutions, serious human rights abuse, and exploitation of the people and public resources of Nicaragua for private gain,” the Treasury Department said.
Under the order, Treasury imposed sanctions on Vice President Rosario Maria Murillo De Ortega, and Nicaraguan national security adviser Nestor Moncada Lau.
Since April, anti-government protests in Nicaragua have resulted in more than 350 deaths, according to human-rights monitors.
“Vice President Murillo and her political operators have systematically sought to dismantle democratic institutions and loot the wealth of Nicaragua to consolidate their grip on power,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “This administration is committed to holding the Ortega regime accountable for the violent protests and widespread corruption that have led to the deaths of hundreds of innocent Nicaraguans and destroyed their economy.”
The Treasury actions freeze any property or assets under U.S. jurisdiction of the two Nicaraguan officials.
A senior administration official said the action is a signal to Mr. Ortega “to find an exit strategy” and pave the way for free and fair elections. Until then, the official said, the administration’s goal is to continue “a campaign of maximum pressure.”
Mr. Ortega, 72, is a former left-wing guerrilla who has ruled Nicaragua for 22 of the past 39 years since his Sandinista rebels toppled a U.S.-backed strongman. The unrest is the worst since he returned to power in 2007, and he has said he intends to serve in his current term as president until 2021.
Earlier this month, U.S. national security adviser John R. Bolton said in a speech that Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba comprise a “troika of tyranny.” He promised a comprehensive, new administration approach to confront leftist, anti-democratic regimes in the Western Hemisphere.
“This Troika of Tyranny, this triangle of terror stretching from Havana to Caracas to Managua, is the cause of immense human suffering, the impetus of enormous regional instability, and the genesis of a sordid cradle of communism in the Western Hemisphere,” Mr. Bolton said. “The United States looks forward to watching each corner of the triangle fall. . . . The Troika will crumble.”