US mining sanctions take aim at Nicaragua’s Ortega

US mining sanctions take aim at Nicaragua’s Ortega

DANIEL ORTEGA. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega on January 10, 2017.

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The United States ratchets up economic pressure on Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's government

US President Joe Biden’s administration ratcheted up economic pressure on Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s government on Monday, October 24, through a series of steps targeting the country’s mining, gold, and other sectors.

Biden signed an executive order that includes the authority to ban US companies from doing business in Nicaragua’s gold industry, while the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions  on Nicaragua’s mining authority, along with another top government official, the department said in a statement.

The order’s expanded sanctions powers could also be used to block new US investment in certain other sectors in Nicaragua, the importation of certain Nicaraguan products, or the exportation of certain items to Nicaragua, it added.

Gold was Nicaragua’s main export last year, with total shipments abroad of the precious metal amounting to $867.6 million, and 79% of that going to the United States, according to central bank data.

“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,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said. He said the US actions aimed to deny them “the resources they need to continue to undermine democratic institutions in Nicaragua.”

Nicaragua’s economy grew 10.3% in 2021, according to data from the World Bank, underpinned by a surge in remittances from the United States, as well as gold and coffee exports, but a sharp slowdown is expected this year.

The two sanctions announced on Monday target Nicaragua’s General Directorate of Mines, a unit of the Nicaraguan Ministry of Energy and Mines that manages most mining operations in the country, and Reinaldo Gregorio Lenin Cerna Juarez, a close Ortega confidante, Treasury said.

Under the move, any property they have in the United States would be frozen and any U.S. persons are prohibited from doing business with them.

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