Treasury Sanctions Members of Nicaraguan President’s Inner Circle

June 23, 2019 Updated: June 23, 2019

The Trump administration on June 21 sanctioned four senior officials in Nicaragua in response to their roles in violating human rights, censoring the media, enacting oppressive laws, and denying medical care to fellow citizens.

The Department of Treasury said the officials are part of the inner circle of Nicaraguan socialist dictator Daniel Ortega.

The sanctions block the assets of the four officials: National Assembly President Gustavo Porras, Institute of Telecommunications and Postal Service (TELCOR) General Director Orlando Castillo, Minister of Health Sonia Castro, and Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Oscar Mojica. The affected assets are either based on U.S. soil or in the possession of a U.S. citizen.

“The Government of Nicaragua continues to violate the human rights of the Nicaraguan people, implementing exploitive and violent laws and holding hundreds of people as political prisoners. The United States is sending an unequivocal message to President Ortega and his inner circle: we stand with the Nicaraguan people on their calls for reform and a return to democracy,” said Sigal Mandelker, undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence.

“We will not hesitate to take action against those who perpetuate oppression or prop up the Ortega regime at the expense of the Nicaraguan people.”

Porras, the National Assembly president, was targeted for his role in enacting a law that pardoned the police officers who killed hundreds of protesters during a violent crackdown last year. The same law also pardoned the surviving demonstrators, but only if they vowed to never again take part in protests against Ortega’s regime.

Protests broke out last year after Ortega announced social security reforms that increased taxes while reducing benefits. Ortega ordered a violent take-down, with police killing 26 people on the first day of the protests. The socialist dictator also shut down independent television channels that reported on the violence.

Castillo, the TELCOR director, was sanctioned for his role in silencing independent TV channels. One of the channels, 100 Percent Noticias, remained off the air for an entire week. Months after the protests, government police beat at least seven journalists with batons, including one of the country’s best-known editors.

Castro, the minister of health, was sanctioned for refusing treatment to victims of the regime’s violent crackdown. The lack of medical care resulted in exacerbated injuries and preventable deaths. Hospitals employees were ordered to report protesters to the parapolice, who would then remove the demonstrators from hospitals. The ministry fired hundreds of hospital personnel who treated injured protesters.

Ortega, who canceled the social security reforms days after the protests broke out, has since outlawed street protests, but the decree hasn’t prevented recurring demonstrations. In March, police beat protesters who took to the streets to demand the release of political prisoners.

Mojica, the transportation minister, was sanctioned for promoting on national television Ortega’s “exile, jail, or death” policy to silence opposition. According to the Treasury Department, the policy has “left hundreds dead, thousands wounded, and tens of thousands either incarcerated, driven into exile, or internally displaced.”

In November last year, the United States labeled Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Cuba collectively as the “troika of tyranny” in South America.

“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,” national security adviser John Bolton said at the time.

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