Nicaragua’s Ortega jails opposition candidates

U.S. warns of increased sanctions if they aren't released. The country's democracy is hanging by a thread.

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June 11, 2021 - 3:27 PM

Riot police stand guard outside the house of Cristiana Chamorro, a pre-presidential candidate, in Managua on June 2, 2021. Nicaraguan police moved to arrest opposition leader Cristiana Chamorro Wednesday, raiding her home after a warrant was issued based on money laundering claims made by President Daniel Ortega's government. (Inti Ocon/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

The Biden administration warned Nicaragua on Thursday that it won’t wait long before using more diplomatic and economic tools to pressure the government of Daniel Ortega to release political opponents and civil society leaders who have been arbitrarily detained over the past week in the most extreme crackdown the country has seen in recent years.

“Even one day is too long,” Julie Chung, the State Department’s Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, said in a call with journalists. “We have been calling for the immediate release of all those imprisoned arbitrarily, and… they’re being held without access to medicine or legal representation, and, in some cases, they’ve been beaten. So every day that goes by is alarming.”

On Wednesday the U.S. announced sanctions on four people, including Ortega’s daughter, freezing any U.S. assets of those on the list and barring Americans from doing business with them. The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control accused them of supporting the government that has “undermined democracy, abused the human rights of civilians, enacted repressive laws with grave economic consequences, and tried to silence the independent news media. “

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