Europe: EU sanctions 8 Nicaraguan officials amid wide-reaching crackdown

The European Union has imposed sanctions on eight Nicaraguan officials, including Rosario Murillo, the country’s vice president and wife of President Daniel Ortega, amid a crackdown on opposition leaders and presidential hopefuls in the Central American nation.

The Council of the EU said Monday’s sanctions bring to 14 the number of Nicaraguans now blacklisted by the bloc, held “responsible for serious human rights violations in Nicaragua and/or whose actions undermined democracy or the rule of law”.

The curbs prohibit travel and transit in the EU for those targeted, a freeze on any EU-based assets and a ban on EU businesses or citizens from doing business with them. One of Ortega’s sons was also sanctioned.

“The political situation in Nicaragua has further deteriorated in recent months,” the council said in a statement.

“The political use of the judicial system, the exclusion of candidates from the elections and the arbitrary delisting of opposition parties are contrary to basic democratic principles and constitute a serious violation of the rights of the Nicaraguan people.”

Since early June, Ortega’s government has overseen a wave of arrests of opposition figures and presidential hopefuls ahead of elections in November, in which the 75-year-old president is expected to seek a fourth consecutive term.

Police have arrested and detained more than 20 opposition figures and several candidates who might have been able to challenge Ortega. Seven opposition presidential hopefuls are among those detained.

The crackdown has prompted condemnation from rights groups and international observers, but Ortega has justified the arrests by saying his administration was prosecuting criminals who were plotting a coup against him.

Most have been arrested under a controversial law approved by parliament in December that was widely criticised as a means of freezing out challengers and silencing opponents.

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(Photo: Cesar Perez/PRESIDENCIA NICARAGUA/AFP/Getty Images)

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