News 13 March 2020

OFAC sanctions Nicaraguan police force as Congress demands greater pressure on regime

The United States has imposed sanctions on the Nicaraguan National Police (‘NNP’) and blacklisted three police commissioners over accusations of human rights abuses. Days later, Congress passed a resolution demanding greater international pressure on President Daniel Ortega’s government.

The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (‘OFAC’) said in a statement on 3 March that the sanctions were in response to the NNP’s use of deadly violence in putting down massive nationwide protests that broke out in April 2018.

‘The NNP is responsible for using live ammunition against peaceful protesters and participating in death squads, as well as carrying out extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and kidnappings,’ the statement said.

It named the blacklisted commissioners as Juan Antonio Valle Valle, Luis Alberto Perez Olivas, and Justo Pastor Urbina and said their interests and properties in the United States are blocked and must be reported to OFAC.

‘The blocking sanctions apply to the NNP as an entity, as well as to the three named NNP commissioners designated today, and not to individual, non-designated NNP police officers,’ the OFAC statement added. 

Two other NNP officials have been previously blacklisted by the Treasury Department for alleged human rights abuses.

Meanwhile, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution on 10 March calling for greater political and economic pressure on Ortega and his closest officials. 

Resolution 754 ‘makes clear that until the Ortega Government releases all political prisoners and implements electoral reforms that would allow for truly free, fair, and fully transparent elections, the US Government should work with its allies to further increase the financial and political pressure on Ortega and his inner circle,’ said Congressman Albio Sires, the New Jersey Democrat who co-sponsored the bill.

Widespread demonstrations erupted in Nicaragua in 2018 over planned welfare cuts that turned into a massive protest against Ortega’s government and its authoritarian tactics. Rights groups say more than 300 died in the government crackdown on protesters.