The Department of the Treasury of the United States counts from this Monday with a legal tool to sanction sectors of the Nicaraguan economythat support and provide funds to the “authoritarian regime” of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, according to Ricardo Zúñiga, Assistant Secretary of the Department of State for Latin America.
according to a statement from the US embassy in NicaraguaUS President Joe Biden signed an amendment to Executive Order 13851 on Nicaragua that “expands sanctioning powers, including trade-specific measures for Nicaragua.”
“These new powers will contribute to our efforts to hold the Ortega-Murillo regime accountable for its actions,” according to the document.
“Governments that do not respect the human rights of their peoples or threaten the security interests of their neighbors, they should not expect their political, economic and trade relations with the United States to remain unaffected”, Zúñiga commented in a conference call with journalists.
“The amendment opens the way to take measures against other sectors of the Nicaraguan economy,” he said, referring to the fact that this Monday The General Directorate of Mines (DGM) has already been sanctioned with the new measureattached to the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM)
“(The sanction to the sectors) is something that we have tried to do with enough care to not affect the daily life of Nicaraguans”, said the official.
“We have to be sure,” he continued, “that those involved in committing activities and aggressions against the people of Nicaragua do not think that they will have free access to the United States system.”
“It is important to emphasize that we are talking about gold today, but this new authorization of the executive order allows us to analyze other sectors of the Nicaraguan economy, as long as they have the same impact of strengthening the authoritarian regimeinstead of strengthening the well-being of Nicaraguans,” explained Zúñiga.
He stressed that the sanction “imposes restrictions on any action that has to do with the National Directorate of Mines, consequently complicating the ability for an entity (in the United States) to have a relationship in the gold market in Nicaragua.”
According to the US Treasury, the expanded sanctions “could be used to prohibit new US investment in certain identified sectors in Nicaragua, the importation of certain products of Nicaraguan origin into the United Statesor export, from the US, or by the United States.”
Regime relies on the mining sector
In January this year, the United States sanctioned division general (retired) Ramón Humberto Calderón Vindellpresident of the Board of Directors of the Nicaraguan Mining Company (Eniminas), and then, in June, to his successor, Ruy López Delgado as well as Eniminas herself.
“(The DGM) has managed most of the mining operations in Nicaragua on behalf of the Government of Nicaragua. As such, it is an important piece of the state-controlled gold operations in Nicaragua,” according to the Treasury.
The official said that the mining sector “has disproportionately benefited the president (Ortega), his family and his allies, to maintain authoritarian control of Nicaragua. We know that this sector, in particular, lends itself to this irregular enrichment.”
“Certain elements of the sector directly benefited the Ortega regime in a worrying way, that is why we have started with this sector and with entities in this sector,” he stressed.
The Treasury Department justified its decision in that Ortega “has used the power” that gold income gives him“to intimidate and imprison those who denounce the regime’s corruption and to sow instability around the world, including by supporting a further Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
The United States, the main market for Nicaraguan gold
Zúñiga pointed out that they sanction the mining sector, “because we know that The United States is the main market for Nicaraguan goldand we want to demonstrate that we have the capacity to act against entities that are strengthening or in some way helping the implementation of this authoritarian power by the Ortega Murillo regime.”
The official explained that “it is a market that moves more or less 1,000 million dollars each year and three quarters of those involve exports to the US.”
“More than 750 million dollars were involved in the gold trade relationship with the United States. It is a significant amount”, he stressed.
In 2021, the mining sector was consolidated as the first exporter in Nicaragua, with 880.5 million dollars, according to the Center for Export Procedures (Cetrex), and aspires to export 1 billion in 2023.
Visas canceled for 500 Ortega supporters
The United States also prohibited the entry of 500 people linked to the Ortega government for “undermining democratic institutions” in Nicaragua, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Monday.
Among those sanctioned are members of the Nicaraguan security forces —including the National Police—, prison officials, judges, prosecutors, higher education workers and non-governmental actors “who allow the repression and corruption of the regime, as well as their relatives.” ”, detailed Zuniga.
“No member of the Nicaraguan government or anyone who facilitates the regime’s abuses should think that they can freely travel to the United States,” Blinken said in a statement.