The U.S. State Department ramped up visa restrictions Monday on officials in Nicaragua, accusing members of dictator Daniel Ortega’s government of “undermining democracy” and being responsible for “ongoing attacks” against student protesters, journalists, and clergy.
In a statement issued late on Monday, Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for State, declared:
The United States condemns the ongoing attacks by Daniel Ortega’s para-police against university students, journalists, and clergy across the country, in addition to the arbitrary detention of Civic Alliance leadership.
We call on Ortega to cease his repression of the people of Nicaragua immediately. The Nicaraguan government must heed the Nicaraguan people’s call for democratic reforms immediately. Early, free, fair, and transparent elections are the best path back to democracy and respect for human rights in Nicaragua.
Trump’s State Department accused members of the communist regime of “flagrant human rights abuses” and “undermining democracy.”
Nauert further proclaimed, “The United States will continue to expose and hold accountable those responsible for the Ortega government’s campaign of violence and repression.”
The State Department’s announcement came after various news outlets revealed that more than 200 student protesters officially deemed “terrorists” by the communist government in Nicaragua safely walked out of a Catholic Church besieged for hours on Saturday by forces loyal to Ortega.
Saturday’s incident, which left two people dead and dozens of others wounded, is a testament to the violence that marred the weekend in Nicaragua.
The following day, an Ortega government operation against protesters left ten people dead, including six civilians, in a violent episode that further fueled the nearly 350 people killed and 1,800 others wounded so far in the unrest that began on April 16 over now-rescinded public pensions reforms, El Periodico newspaper from Spain reported on Monday, citing human rights groups.
Nicaraguan lawmakers recently approved a law against terrorism that the United Nations argues can potentially be used to criminalize peace protests.
“The text is very vague and allows a broad interpretation that could lead to the inclusion (in the definition of terrorist) of people who are simply exercising their right to protest,” the U.N. human rights office declared in denouncing the law on Tuesday.
According to the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency, the Ortega government has imprisoned an estimated 2,000 since the unrest began in April.
On Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also denounced the Ortega regime’s violent crackdown on protesters.
Guterres believes “the use of lethal force is not only unacceptable, but it is also in itself an obstacle to obtaining a political solution to the current crisis,” said a spokesman for the U.N. chief, according to the Associated Press (AP).
The spokesman urged the Nicaraguan government to protect the population against attacks and stop violating human rights.
Protesters are demanding that Ortega step down, but the dictator has so far refused the people’s call for early elections and accuses the demonstrators of trying to overthrow his elected government.