The United States restricted visas on Saturday for 100 officials of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega for “attacks” on civil liberties, such as the confiscation of assets from a Jesuit university and the detention of Bishop Rolando Álvarez, announced Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Hundreds of opponents were arrested in Nicaragua in the context of the repression that followed the 2018 protests against Ortega, who has been in power since 2007 and successively re-elected in elections called into question by the United States and the European Union.
The State Department has taken additional measures to “hold accountable the relentless attacks by the Ortega-Murillo regime on civil liberties,” Blinken said in a statement referring to Ortega’s wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo.
Washington is imposing “visa restrictions on 100 Nicaraguan municipal officials who participated in efforts to repress civil society organizations, close civic spaces such as the Central American University, and unjustly detain brave individuals who support a free civil society, including Bishop Rolando Álvarez,” he adds, without detailing the names of those sanctioned.
Ortega’s government has a very conflictive relationship with the Catholic Church.
The case of Álvarez, detained a year ago, is one of the points of friction, in one of the worst moments of diplomatic relations between Managua and the Vatican.
Álvarez was sentenced in February to more than 26 years in prison after refusing to leave for the United States along with 222 released political prisoners who were expelled from the country.
In a message on Twitter, the head of US diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean, Brian Nichols, said Saturday that Ortega and Murillo arbitrarily detained him for “preaching justice and peace for Nicaragua.”
The Central American University, a Jesuit institution, also suffered a severe blow this week, suspending all its activities after a court ordered the confiscation of its assets and funds, after accusing it of being a “center of terrorism.”
Blinken warns Ortega’s government that the United States will continue working “with the international community to promote accountability for those who threaten democracy” and support “the fundamental freedoms of the Nicaraguan people and respect for their human rights.”