The United States sanctioned state-owned Nicaraguan mining company ENIMINAS and its board president for their growing ties with Russia.
The June 17 executive order of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) bars any dealings by U.S. assets with the company and the president of its board of directors,Ruy Delgado López, thus undermining one of the key revenue streams of the Ortega-Murillo regime.
The sanction comes after “the Ortega-Murillo regime rigged last November’s  presidential elections through thearbitrary imprisonment of the political opposition, the blocking of political parties, the shuttering of independent media, and the bullying of civil society,” the Treasury said in a statement. “They are deepening their relationship with Russia as it wages war against Ukraine, while using gold revenue to continue to oppress the people of Nicaragua and engage in activities that pose a threat to the security of the hemisphere.”
The Nicaraguan government createdENIMINAS in 2017 under a law that allowed for increased state participation in the mining business with private companies. According to U.S. think tank The Oakland Institute, the total amount of land under mining concessions increased from 1.2 million to 2.6 million hectares within thefirst month of the new law. Nearly 853,800 hectares are in the buffer zone of the Bosawás Ecological Reserve.
The nongovernmental organizationFundación del Río, dedicated to the defense of the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve, on the border with Costa Rica, has been denouncing since 2016 the advances of mining in protected ecological zones, Nicaraguan research magazine Divergentesreported. Its president, Amaru Ruiz,considers the U.S. sanction positive, since indiscriminate mining not only sustains the regime, but also devastates natural resources and violates indigenous peoples’ human rights.
“The sanction […] represents one of the most forceful actions in economic terms to bring down the pillars that sustain the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship,” Ruiz told Diálogo. “In addition, it’s one of the main items that, in the midst of the socio-political crisis and COVID-19, has been growing exponentially, both in mining concessions and in the amount of tons of gold extraction exported by Nicaragua, and which only benefits the upper echelon that’s in the mining business.”
“One of the growing sources of wealth [of the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship], in addition to the loans from multilateral institutions that for some reason do not cease, despite international outcry and the U.S. NICA Act[Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act], was its export of gold, both Nicaraguan and Venezuelan, which is repackaged and sold as Nicaraguan,” Ryan C. Berg, head of the Future of Venezuela Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank, told Diálogo. “While there are still other outlets for laundering Venezuelan and Nicaraguan gold, these outlets are run through criminal organizations such as the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] and ELN [National Liberation Army].”
On the same day of the Treasury’s announcement, Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada traveled to Russia to participate in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
In early June, the Rosario-Murillo regime also authorized the entry of Russian personnel, ships, and aircraft in Nicaragua, starting July 1 until December 31, 2022. According to Nicaragua’s official Gazette, the Russian troops will participate in humanitarian aid, military exercises, and operations against illicit activities on the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
“As the Ortega-Murillo regime increasingly engages Russia and continues lining its coffers with significant revenue exploited from the Nicaraguan gold sector, the regime has turned its back on the Nicaraguan people, neglecting their livelihoods for regime gains,” U.S. Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said.
In Ruiz’s opinion, more actions against the dictatorship should be considered, so that “all the support that has been maintained based on political influence, lack of transparency, illegitimacy, and state corruption, doesn’t contribute to maintaining the regime economically. More actions are required to continue to attack the economic pillars that the dictatorship has in the country.”