The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on a Nicaraguan bank and two senior officials, expanding pressure over the leftist government’s crackdown on protests and alleged corruption.
The Treasury Department said it would freeze any US assets and ban transactions with the Caruna bank as well as Nicaragua’s attorney general and the secretary of the presidency.
The Treasury Department alleged that President Daniel Ortega used Caruna, which stands for Cooperativa De Ahorro Y Credito Caja Rural Nacional, as an unregulated slush fund that takes money from the state oil company to provide patronage to supporters.
It accused the attorney general, Ana Julia Guido De Romero, of leading efforts to charge prisoners detained for peaceful protests, including some arrested for delivering water to a group of mothers on a hunger strike as they sought justice for their children.
The latest move “promotes accountability for the Ortega regime and those who are attempting to further its atrocious activities,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
“The United States will continue to take the necessary steps to support the Nicaraguan people and pressure the Ortega regime to cease repression, respect human rights and allow the conditions for free and fair elections that would restore democracy to Nicaragua.”
President Donald Trump’s administration has been raising pressure on Nicaragua as well as its leftist allies Cuba and Venezuela.
It has already imposed sanctions on Ortega as well as his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.
A leader of the left-wing Sandinista movement, Ortega was re-elected in disputed polls in 2016 for a term that ends in 2022.
More than 300 people died as security forces put down protests in 2018 that sought earlier elections after Ortega pushed social security reforms.