June 7 (UPI) — The U.S. State Department on Thursday issued visa restrictions on several unnamed Nicaraguan officials allegedly responsible for human rights abuses during recent political violence in the country.
Nicaraguan National Police officials, municipal government officials and a Ministry of Health official are affected under the visa restrictions for “directing or overseeing violence against others exercising their rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, thereby undermining Nicaragua’s democracy,” State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement.
Some family members of these officials may also be affected.
“We will not publicly identify these individuals due to U.S. visa confidentiality laws, but we are sending a clear message that human rights abusers and those who undermine democracy are not welcome in the United States,” the statement added.
The visa restrictions come on the same day Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., met with three prominent Nicaragua university student activists and the widow of a Nicaraguan journalist who was killed during protests in the country.
“As I said 2 days ago,U.S. not going to stand by & allow human rights abusers & those undermining democracy in #Nicaragua to spend their weekends vacationing in Miami,” Rubio tweeted on Thursday after the visa restrictions were announced. “Today @StateDept @SecPompeo issued visa restrictions against some of them. More to come.”
The United States has become increasingly more vocal towards the violence in Nicaragua, which has resulted in more than 110 deaths since protests broke out across the country against social security cuts, but turned into a movement against state violence and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega after police allegedly killed nearly 100 people during those protests.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has been pushing for the NICA Act, which would use U.S. influence to oppose any loan from international financial institutions to the Nicaraguan government until the United States approves of Nicaragua’s democracy and human rights standards.
“On @HouseFloor, I also called for our Senate colleagues to quit stalling and to take meaningful action to support the Nicaraguan people by passing the #NICAAct so that we can keep the pressure on the #Ortega regime until true #democracy + #freedom return to #Nicaragua,” Ros-Lehtinen tweeted on Thursday.