The European Union this Monday has expanded sanctions against Daniel Ortega’s regime in Nicaragua and has substantially raised the rank of people included on the black list. Among the eight names added are the vice president of the Government and wife of the Nicaraguan president, Rosario Murillo, and the couple’s son, Juan Carlos Ortega Murillo, due to his position as director of one of the main television channels in the country and leader of the Movement. Sandinista May 4.
The EU accuses the eight senior officials of being “responsible for serious human rights violations and / or actions that undermine democracy or the rule of law in Nicaragua.” Brussels emphasizes that the punishment measures “are directed at specific individuals and are designed in such a way that they do not harm the population or the Nicaraguan economy.”
Those sanctioned, who already number 14, will be banned from entering the 27 EU states and if they have assets in Community territory they will be frozen. And no European citizen or company will be able to provide them with financial resources.
The new European sanctions come after those of the United States and the United Kingdom, which had already reacted to the deterioration of the political situation in the Central American country. The High Representative of Foreign Policy of the EU, Josep Borrell, has needed almost a month to achieve the unanimity of the 27 partners of the Union for the toughening of the punishment.
Borrell already warned at the beginning of July, during a speech in the plenary session of the European Parliament, that “Nicaragua has entered a repressive spiral” whose objective would be “the elimination of competitors by November 7”, the date on which they are planned presidential and parliamentary elections.
The High Representative’s fears were corroborated this weekend, with the arrest of a seventh presidential candidate. The EU notes in the statement announcing the sanctions that this arrest “sadly illustrates the magnitude of the repression in Nicaragua and projects a disturbing image for the upcoming elections.”
For months, the EU has been calling on the Ortega regime to establish a dialogue with the opposition to guarantee a reliable democratic process and to allow the return to Nicaragua of the international organizations in charge of ensuring respect for human rights. Managua has ignored European requests, which has led Brussels to redouble the sanctions regime.
Vice President Murillo leads the expansion of the blacklist. The EU accuses the number two of the regime of playing “an instrumental role in encouraging and justifying the repression exercised by the Nicaraguan National Police against opposition demonstrations in 2018”. In June of this year, in addition, Murillo “publicly threatened the Nicaraguan opposition and discredited independent journalists,” according to the Decision published this Monday in the Official Gazette of the EU.
The list of those punished also includes the president of the National Assembly, Gustavo Eduardo Porras Cortés, for promoting legal acts such as the amnesty law that prevents the investigation of those responsible for the repression of the demonstrations in 2018. Others sanctioned are the attorney general of the republic, the president of the Supreme Court, an economic adviser to the Prime Minister, two senior officials of the national police and Ortega Murillo as director of Channel 8, “one of the main propaganda television networks,” according to the Decision.
The European sanctions regime against Nicaragua was approved in October 2019, as an instrument to respond to Ortega’s repression against opponents, the media and civil society. In May 2020, in view of the attitude of Managua, the 27 EU partners launched the mechanism with a black list of six people who were prohibited from entering European territory and were condemned to freeze their assets in the Union.
That first list, which is still in force, included Ortega’s personal assistants in matters of health and safety, a high-ranking prison official, and the director and deputy director of the national police. The black list of this month of August has raised the spotlight and hits the top of the regime and the family of the president himself.
Brussels acknowledges, however, that the impact of the sanctions may be limited and that Ortega continues his authoritarian drift with apparent impunity. “What is clear is that Ortega feels safe enough to stop the most popular leaders of the opposition without new street demonstrations taking place,” Borrell told the European Parliament.
Several European parliamentary groups call for a tougher hand with Nicaragua, but the sanctions process, as Borrell recalled, requires unanimity, which usually takes time to achieve. At the end of the recent parliamentary debate on the country, the High Representative frankly pointed out that “unsurprisingly, we have heard many invocations of ‘enough, Mr. Ortega!’ I assure you that to Mr. Ortega his invocations are brought fresh ”.