Biden signs bill calling for more sanctions, pressuring Nicaragua
US President Joe Biden enacted a bill on Wednesday calling for more sanctions and other punitive measures against the government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, which extended its grip on power in an election that Washington has denounced as a sham. Biden, who accused Ortega of orchestrating Sunday’s vote as a “pantomime election that was neither free nor fair”, gave his approval to the bill a week after it was finally passed by the US Congress with support overwhelming bipartite.
The Biden administration plans to announce new sanctions against Nicaragua “very soon,” a senior State Department official told Reuters on Tuesday, saying it would only be the first in a series of US measures that ” will accelerate over time “. Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla leader, won his fourth consecutive term after jailing political rivals and cracking down on critical media in an election that drew international condemnation both before and after it was held.
Ortega on Monday evening ridiculed his American critics as “Yankee imperialists” and accused them of trying to undermine Nicaragua’s electoral process. Cuba, Venezuela and Russia have all offered their support to Ortega. The White House announced the signing of Biden’s bill as members of the Organization of American States (OAS) gathered in Guatemala for a previously scheduled meeting where the United States is working with other countries on this that they hope will be a strong resolution against Ortega.
The so-called RENACER law provides for sanctions against Nicaraguans found responsible for unfair elections, increased coordination of these measures with the European Union and Canada, and increased US surveillance of international loans to Managua. Previous sanctions imposed by Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump have failed to deter Ortega, and many analysts wonder if new measures will have much of an impact.
The State Department official declined to elaborate on the current sanctions. But a US government source said last week that the initial targets are likely to be individuals, members of the security forces and government-controlled businesses. The bill, which was introduced by Senator Bob Menendez, Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also requires reports from the US government on allegations of corruption by the Ortega family, human rights violations by Russian security forces and activities in the country, including military sales.
In addition, the administration is invited to review Nicaragua’s participation in the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which grants preferential treatment to exports to the United States.
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