The administration of US President Joe Biden is ratcheting up pressure on Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s rule, threatening a ban on Americans from doing business in the nation’s gold industry, raising the possibility of trade restrictions and stripping the US visas of about 500 government insiders.
The actions, stemming from an executive order signed on Monday by Biden, are the latest and perhaps most aggressive attempt by the US to hold the former Sandinista guerrilla leader accountable for alleged attacks on human rights and democracy in the Central American country, as well his continued security cooperation with Russia.
Previous rounds of sanctions have focused on Ortega, his wife, Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo, and members of their family and inner circle.
Photo: AFP / NICARAGUAN PRESIDENCY / JAIRO CAJINA
However, none of those moves have loosened Ortega’s grip on power.
The new executive order greatly expands a decree declaring Ortega’s hijacking of democratic norms, undermining of the rule of law and use of political violence against opponents to be a threat to the US’ national security.
Together with the US Department of the Treasury’s simultaneous sanctioning of Nicaragua’s General Directorate of Mines, the order all but makes it illegal for Americans to do business with Nicaragua’s gold industry.
It is the first time the US has identified a specific sector of the economy as potentially off-limits and can be expanded to include other industries believed to fill the government’s coffers.
The executive order also paves the way for the US to restrict investment and trade with Nicaragua — a move recalling the embargo imposed by Washington in the 1980s during Ortega’s first stint as president following the country’s civil war.
“The Ortega-Murillo regime’s continued attacks on democratic actors and members of civil society and unjust detention of political prisoners demonstrate that the regime feels it is not bound by the rule of law,” US Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said. “We can and will use every tool at our disposal to deny the Ortega-Murillo regime the resources they need to continue to undermine democratic institutions.”
In her daily comments on Monday to official media, Murillo did not directly mention the expanded US sanctions, but said that Nicaraguans are “defenders of the national sovereignty.”
She also read a letter from Ortega congratulating Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), who on Sunday was named to another term as head of the Chinese Communist Party, with Ortega questioning the “aggressive imperial ambition” of the West.
Monday’s action could signal the start of a new offensive taking aim at the broader economy — something the Biden administration has been reluctant to pursue for fear of adding to the country’s hardships and unleashing more migration.
For the fiscal year that ended last month, US border agents encountered Nicaraguans nearly 164,000 times at the southwest border — more than triple the level for the previous year.
At the same time, frustrations have been building in Washington over the way Nicaragua’s economic elites have largely remained silent amid Ortega’s crackdown.
The Biden administration’s targeting of the gold industry could sap Ortega’s government of one of its biggest sources of revenue. Gold was the country’s largest export in 2020 and the country, already the largest producer of the precious metal in Central America, is looking to double output in the next five years.
Nicaragua’s central bank said that the country last year exported a record 348,532 ounces of gold and the country’s mining association projects exports totaling 500,000 ounces next year.
Among foreign investors active in the country is Condor Gold, whose chief executive officer, Mark Child, appeared in a photograph with the Nicaraguan leader in a presentation last month for investors prepared by the UK-based company.
“He is basically totally supportive of the project,” Child said in a March interview following a 90-minute meeting with Ortega. “That meeting ... basically gives a major green light for the construction of project finance and materially de-risks the project.”
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) removed former minister of foreign affairs Qin Gang (秦剛) from his post after an investigation concluded that he had conducted an affair and fathered a child while serving as ambassador to the US, the Wall Street Journal reported. Top officials were told in August that a CCP inquiry into Qin uncovered “lifestyle issues,” the newspaper reported yesterday, citing people familiar with the situation that it did not describe. That phrase usually means sexual misbehavior of some type in the parlance of Chinese officialdom. Two of the people said the affair led to the birth of a child in
GUNNED DOWN: The Canadian PM said there were credible allegations that India was connected to the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey on June 18 India yesterday dismissed allegations that its government was linked to the killing of a Sikh activist in Canada as “absurd,” expelling a senior Canadian diplomat and accusing Canada of interfering in India’s internal affairs. It came a day after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described what he called credible allegations that India was connected to the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, an advocate of Sikh independence from India who was gunned down on June 18 outside a Sikh cultural center in Surrey, British Columbia, and Canada expelled a top Indian diplomat. “Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a
LOST BATTLE: The Varroa mite, which Canberra has called the ‘most serious pest’ to face bees, would cause serious economic damage, an ecologist said Australia yesterday abandoned its fight to eradicate the destructive Varroa mite, an invasive parasite responsible for the collapse of honeybee populations across the planet. Desperate to keep Varroa out of the country, authorities have destroyed more than 14,000 infected beehives since the tiny red-brown pest was first detected north of Sydney in June last year. The government said its US$64 million eradication plan could not stop the mite from spreading, and the country’s beekeepers should now prepare to live with the incursion. “The recent spike in new detections have made it clear that the Varroa mite infestation is more widespread and has
COP28 AGENDA: Beijing’s climate envoy said that China was open to negotiating a global renewable energy target as long as it took economic conditions into account The complete phasing-out of fossil fuels is not realistic, China’s top climate official said on Thursday, adding that such fuels must continue to play a vital role in maintaining global energy security. Chinese Special Envoy on Climate Change Xie Zhenhua (解振華) was responding to comments by ambassadors at a forum in Beijing ahead of the UN’s COP28 climate meeting in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in November. Reporters obtained a copy of text of Xie’s speech and a video recording of the meeting. Countries are under pressure to make more ambitious climate pledges after a UN-led global “stocktake” said that 20 gigatonnes of additional