U.S. imposes sanctions on Nicaraguan officials backing President Noriega

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MEXICO CITY — The U.S. State Department imposed visa restrictions Monday on 93 more Nicaraguan officials for their role in supporting the regime of President Daniel Ortega.

Ortega jailed dozens of opposition figures in order to win a fourth consecutive term in Nov. 7 elections that were broadly criticized as a farce. He has also outlawed dozens of nongovernmental organizations.

Since then, dozens of opponents have been tried or convicted in brief trials on vague charges equivalent to treason.

The State Department announced it had pulled the visas of judges who convicted the opposition leaders, as well as legislators who had cooperated in banning NGOs and civic groups.

The department said in a statement that legislators and Interior Ministry officials helped “the regime to tighten its authoritarian grip over Nicaraguan citizens and institutions by using repressive laws to strip more than 400 NGOs and a dozen universities of their legal status.”

It added “the regime holds over 180 political prisoners, with many suffering from a lack of adequate food, proper medical care, and even sunlight. One political prisoner has died, and others remain in solitary confinement.”

The State Department had previously imposed visa restrictions on 116 individuals linked to the Ortega regime, “including mayors, prosecutors, university administrators, as well as police, prison, and military officials.”

In recent months, the Treasury Department has frozen the U.S. assets of the defense minister and other officials in the army, telecom and mining sectors. As with dozens of Nicaraguan officials already under sanctions, U.S. citizens were prohibited from having dealings with them.

With all government institutions firmly within Ortega’s grasp and the opposition exiled, jailed or in hiding, the 75-year-old leader eroded what hope remained the country could soon return to a democratic path.

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