The State Department has sanctioned 100 Nicaraguan officials for their “relentless attacks on civil liberties” under the regime of President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo. The sanctions include a ban on travel to the United States.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused these officials of participating in attempts to “repress civil society organizations, close civic spaces ... and unjustly detain courageous individuals who support a free civil society, including Bishop Rolando Álvarez.”
Álvarez was among multiple priests arrested last year after he spoke out against the Nicaraguan government’s closure of several Catholic radio stations and criticized the government’s human rights record. In February, Álvarez, who refused to be exiled to the U.S., was sentenced to 26 years in prison for undermining the government, spreading false information, and obstruction of functions and disobedience, according to the Associated Press reported. He was also stripped of his Nicaraguan citizenship.
Secretary Blinken called on the “regime to unconditionally and immediately release Bishop Álvarez and all those unjustly detained,” in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
The additional sanctions come days after the Ortega government seized Central American University, a Jesuit-run school founded in 1960, claiming it was a “center of terrorism.” Since then, the university has been de-funded, and its main leaders have been barred from re-entering the country when they have left on travel.
“With this confiscation, the Ortega government has buried the freedom of thought in Nicaragua,” said María Asunción Moreno, who was a professor at the university until she was forced into exile in 2021.
In February, the government of Nicaragua stripped 94 of its citizens of their nationality and revoked the citizenship of 222 political prisoners who were released from custody. And in June, the Ortega regime confiscated properties belonging to those 222 opposition figures.
Thousands have fled into exile since Nicaraguan security forces violently put down massive street demonstrations that broke out in Nicaragua in 2018 protesting the repressive rule of the Ortega regime.
“We will continue to work with the international community to promote accountability for those who threaten democracy in Nicaragua,” declared Secretary Blinken. “And we remain committed to promoting the fundamental freedoms of the Nicaraguan people and respect for their human rights.”