US slaps sanctions on more top Nicaraguan officials

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — The U.S. Treasury Department slapped sanctions Friday on Nicaragua’s attorney general, the U.S.-born private secretary to President Daniel Ortega and a savings-and-loan business.

The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control said the sanction decision “targets corrupt financial operations and Ortega regime supporters.” The move blocks the U.S. assets of the officials and prohibits U.S. citizens from dealing with them.

Those sanctioned Friday include Attorney General Ana Julia Guido De Romero. The office said she formed a group of prosecutors who worked with police ”to fabricate cases against political prisoners and their families.”

The sanctions also hit Secretary of the Presidency Paul Herbert Oquist Kelley. The office claimed “Oquist has pled the Ortegas’ case internationally with an unrelenting flow of lies to conceal or justify the regime’s abuses.”

The office slapped the same sanctions on a sort of savings-and-loan association, the Cooperativa De Ahorro Y Credito Caja Rural Nacional RL.

Known by the acronym “Caruna,” the office said Ortega used the savings and loan to siphon off government funds, noting “the Ortega regime has used these funds as a financial resource to remain in power and pay a network of patronage.”

This year, the office has already sanctioned Ortega’s son, Juan Carlos Ortega, as well as his communications company, for alleged ties to drug trafficking.

The U.S. has also slapped sanctions on Gen. Julio Avilés, the head of Nicaragua’s army, Treasury Minister Iván Acosta and the country’s National Police. The U.S. government says it is pressing Ortega to hold free and fair elections and respect basic rights.

So far, some 24 people close to Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo have been sanctioned, including Murillo herself and three of her children with Ortega since late 2017.

There was no immediate reaction from the Nicaraguan government.

Félix Maradiaga, a leader of the National Coalition, an opposition group, said “this is another victory for the people of Nicaragua in their search for justice and the isolation of the dictatorship.”