U.S. President Donald Trump extended an executive order on November 25 to sanction Nicaraguan government officials, asserting that the situation in the country constitutes an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
With the executive order renewed, the United States will announce new sanctions on officials of the Daniel Ortega government, Carlos Trujillo, U.S. representative to the Organization of American States (OAS), told the press.
“The pressure on Nicaragua will continue,” Trujillo said as he left an OAS session on the Central American country.
In a statement released by the White House, Trump said that the country’s situation and its “threat” are due to the “violent response by the government of Nicaragua to the protests that began on April 18, 2018.”
He also blamed President Daniel Ortega for the “systematic dismantling and undermining of democratic institutions and the rule of law,” as well as the “use of indiscriminate violence and repressive tactics against civilians.”
According to the press release, corruption is another factor that contributes to this situation.
Trump’s measures comply with an administrative procedure; the president must extend the executive order issued on November 27, 2018, so that it can remain in force, allowing for legal arguments to sanction Nicaraguan officials.
Opposition pushes for further pressure
According to Bianca Jagger, an opposition activist and human rights advocate, both the United States and the European Union should impose more sanctions against Nicaraguan government officials, especially the military.
“The Nicaraguan Army remains untouched, because they hope that the Army will take the same stand as Bolivia’s [Army],” Jagger said at an event held in Washington on November 25. “The Army has provided war weapons to the police and military,” she added.
Nicaragua, along with Cuba and Venezuela, is among the Latin American countries that Trump has set as a priority for imposing diplomatic and economic pressure leading to a change in government.
According to Roberto Courtney, executive director of the nongovernmental organization Ethics and Transparency, the effect of sanctions might be greater in Nicaragua, which is more economically vulnerable.
“There’s a small difference [between Nicaragua and Venezuela] (…) economic vulnerability makes it more prone to suffer the effect of sanctions,” Courtney said.
Nicaragua has been experiencing a socio-political crisis since April 2018. According to an OAS High-Level Commission report on Nicaragua, the crisis contributed to at least 325 deaths.
The report, submitted to the Permanent Council, recommended that the OAS declare a “disruption in constitutional order” in Nicaragua, which could trigger the suspension of Nicaragua as a member of the multilateral organization.