Nicaragua’s Ortega sworn in for fourth term as U.S., EU impose sanctions

WASHINGTON / BRUSSELS, Jan. 10 (Reuters) – Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega was sworn in for his fourth consecutive term on Monday, hours after the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on several prominent figures in his government in the a series of elections that Washington has called a “sham”.

Ortega won the November 7 ballot after most of his political enemies were jailed, sparking widespread condemnation. US President Joe Biden called the election a “pantomime,” accusing the former Marxist guerrilla and Cold War opponent of the United States of growing authoritarianism.

Most western and regional countries avoided the inauguration ceremony on Monday evening, although left-wing leaders such as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Cuban President Miguel Diaz Canel flew in to show their support.

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China, which recently forged ties with Nicaragua, also sent a delegation.

In a measured speech primarily focused on the story of the Sandinista rebellion against former US-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza, Ortega pledged to continue to “grow dreams and build roads” for him. Nicaraguan people.

But opponents of Ortega say the leader now presides over a government similar to Somoza’s, which was overthrown by left-wing Sandinista guerrillas in Ortega in 1979.

Laura Chinchilla, the former president of Costa Rica, called Ortega a “dictator” ahead of the ceremony.

“He is turning his back on a people who did not vote for him, isolated from the world which does not recognize his election, under a legacy of horror and pain,” Chinchilla said on Twitter.

The Ortega government, in power since 2007, did not respond to a request for comment.

Earlier today, the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Nicaraguan officials, including the defense minister.

The sanctions come after a series of other actions Washington has coordinated with its allies in recent months to increase pressure on Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.

Ortega’s first term in power ended in 1990, and upon his return to the presidency in 2007, he quickly took control of key state institutions, analysts say.

Election observers from the European Union and the Organization of American States were not allowed to monitor the November ballot and journalists were banned from entering Nicaragua.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States and its partners “will continue to denounce the current abuses of the Ortega-Murillo regime and deploy diplomatic and economic tools to support the restoration of democracy and respect for human rights. human rights in Nicaragua “.

The US Treasury Department said in a separate statement it had imposed sanctions on six Nicaraguan officials on charges of state violence, disinformation and targeting of independent media.

The Treasury action targeted the defense minister as well as military officials, the company overseeing telecommunications and postal services, and the state-owned Nicaraguan Mining Company.

The US State Department is also taking action to impose visa restrictions on 116 people it accuses of undermining democracy in Nicaragua, Blinken said, barring some mayors, prosecutors and police, prison officials and the military, among others, to enter the United States.

Responding to action taken against him, Ortega said in his speech that the United States and the European Union do not have the moral authority to impose sanctions.

“They don’t respect international laws,” Ortega said.

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Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Paul Grant in Washington and Robin Emmott in Brussels; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Doina Chiacu, Alistair Bell and Karishma Singh

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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