The United States imposed sanctions on four relatives of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, including his daughter, after a wave of arrests of dissidents that Washington and the United Nations called for their immediate release.
Seven dissidents were arrested in recent days in Nicaragua, the latest of whom was former Foreign Minister Jose Ballet, on Wednesday, on charges of “inciting external interference in internal affairs (…) after requesting military interventions” and for preparing “acts of terrorism and destabilization,” according to a statement by the presidency.
The other opponents arrested are four potential candidates for the presidential election in November: political scientist Felix Madariaga, economist Juan Sebastian Chamorro, former diplomat Arturo Cruz and journalist Christiana Chamorro, as well as employers’ association president Jose Adan Aguirre and civil society activist Violetta Granera.
Daniel Ortega, 75, who has spent 14 of those years in office, could run for a fourth term in the next ballot.
Christiana Chamorro, who was placed under house arrest on June 2, after being arrested for money laundering, is his most dangerous competitor. She is the daughter of Violetta Chamorro, who ruled the country from 1990 to 1997.
Media close to the government expected more arrests.
The radio presenter, who is close to the authority, William Grigsby, said during the broadcast of his program on Radio “La Primerisima”, that the operation began (…) Betrayal of the homeland is a crime.
The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights saw the wave of arrests as a “corrupt strategy” for the Ortega government to intimidate those it considers political enemies. “It is not about a criminal investigation, it is about political persecution,” he said.
Washington said, on Tuesday, that the arrests revealed that the president is a “dictator”, and called on the international community to “treat him as such.”
“The United States calls on President Daniel Ortega and the government of Nicaragua to immediately release the presidential candidates…and other leaders of the opposition and civil society who were arrested last week,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
For its part, the US Treasury announced in a statement that the four individuals targeted by the sanctions “support the Ortega regime,” considering it “a regime that undermined democracy, violated the human rights of civilians, implemented repressive laws with serious economic consequences, and attempted to shut down independent news media.”
In addition to the daughter of President Camila Antonia Ortega Moreau, coordinator of the Creative Economy Committee, the sanctions include Central Bank President Leonardo Ovidio Reyes Ramirez, Representative Edwin Ramon Castro Rivera and General Julio Modesto Rodriguez Baladares, executive director of the Military Social Security Institute.
Their potential assets in the US have been frozen and they are denied access to the US financial system.
Price warned that President Ortega “and those carrying out his tyrannical orders” would be personally “responsible for the safety and welfare” of the detainees.
Twenty-eight leaders and people close to power in Nicaragua are now subject to US sanctions and three organizations, including the police.
The Nicaraguan government responded with a statement describing the sanctions as “unlawful, arbitrary, coercive and unilateral measures.”
She asserts that the arrested opponents want to “sell the homeland” abroad.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the release of opponents and “the restoration of their rights,” according to his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric.