Wednesday, November 28, 2018

U.S. sanctions Nicaragua's VP (Nov. 28, 2018)

The U.S. ratcheted up pressure against Nicaragua's Ortega administration yesterday, with financial sanctions against Vice President Rosario Murillo and a top Ortega aide. Murillo, who is President Daniel Ortega's wife, and Néstor Moncada Lau, a national security advisor, are accused of complicity and responsibility for severe human rights abuses in Nicaragua. An estimated 325 people have been killed in protests agains the government since April, and an estimated 600 people are political prisoners. Murillo is accused of influencing the FSLN's youth organization and the Nicaraguan National Police, both involved in this year's rights abuses. Both Murillo and Moncada are also accused of corruption, dismantling democratic institutions, and exploiting Nicaragua's public resources for personal gain. (ConfidencialLa Prensa, and El País)

The sanctions prohibit Murillo and Moncada from traveling to the U.S., accessing assets they hold there, and prohibit U.S. citizens from doing business with the targets. The sanctions were announced under a new executive order allowing Washington to target Nicaraguan officials for a crackdown on anti-government protests. The order signed by U.S. President Donald Trump declared that the Ortega government’s actions constituted "an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States." The order also lays the foundation to also punish companies and individuals found to be facilitating its alleged repression and corruption. Further sanctions are to be expected. (ReutersMiami HeraldNew York Times, and Wall Street Journal)

El Confidencial recently reported on testimony linking Murillo to crackdown orders in April.

In a speech in Miami earlier this month, U.S. national security advisor John Bolton promised harsher measures against Nicaragua, calling it part of  the “troika of tyranny” along with Cuba and Venezuela. (See Nov. 2's briefs.) Trump administration officials cast the sanctions on Murillo and Lau as the first step in fulfilling that pledge, reports the Washington Post.

Yesterday the U.S. Senate passed the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality (NICA) Act, which seeks to condition U.S. approval for loans to the Ortega government from international financial institutions.  It also grants the U.S. administration additional authorities to sanction more regime operatives, and seeks to hold accountable any regime that provides assistance to help Ortega stay in power. It now passes to the House of Representatives. (El Nuevo Diario and U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen)

More from Nicaragua
  • The Inter American Press Association denounced the detention of Luis Sánchez Sancho, editorial writer for La Prensa in Managua. (Infobae)
News Briefs

  • Young opposition leaders in Venezuela are focusing on long-term strategies, focusing on bread-and-butter issues in poverty stricken neighborhoods that used to be Chavista strongholds, reports the Associated Press.
  • Former Venezuelan national treasurer Alejandro Andrade was sentenced to 10 years in prison in a U.S. court this week for his role in a $1 billion bribery and money-laundering scheme, reports the Miami Herald. (See Monday's briefs.)
  • The New York Times interviews Meridith Kohut, an American photojournalist who's worked in Venezuela for the past decade. "I’ve been detained more times than I can count. I’ve received death threats. I’ve been beaten by soldiers, punched in the face and shot with rubber bullets."
  • Incoming Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador is uniquely positioned to push for meaningful dialogue between Venezuela's government and opposition, argues WOLA's Geoff Ramsey in a Reforma column. Though AMLO's been criticized strongly for inviting Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to his inauguration later this week, the overture presents an opportunity take advantage of Mexico's considerable diplomatic muscle, he writes.
  • Human Rights Watch's Daniel Wilkinson's latest column on the human rights catastrophe that AMLO will inherit when he takes office on Saturday focuses on Mexico's forced disappearance crisis. You can access the entire series here.
  • Yesterday's testimony in El Chapo's New York trial detailed the details of the Sinaloa Cartel leader's lavish lifestyle in the 1990's, from a $10 million beach house to a private zoo and impromptu beauty treatment trips, report the New York Times and the Associated Press. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Till the bitter end: Outgoing Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto angered many Mexicans by bestowing the nation’s highest honor for foreigners, the Order of the Aztec Eagle, on Jared Kushner, senior White House advisor and Trump's son-in-law. (Guardian)
  • The Trump administration has quietly resumed separating immigrant families at the border, reports ProPublica's Ginger Thompson. The justification is protecting kids from allegedly criminal parents, but immigration advocates say its a return to this year's hugely controversial zero-tolerance policy. 
  • Migrants massed in Tijuana are organizing among themselves to fairly organize the long list of people who intend to seek asylum in the U.S. and will have to wait months for an appointment, reports the Washington Post.
  • The U.S. justice department said it would appeal a judge’s order barring the Trump administration from enforcing an asylum ban ban for immigrants who illegally enter the U.S., reports the Associated Press. (See Nov. 20's post.)
  • A transgender woman who died of dehydration in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in May, appeared to have been physically abused before her death. (New York Times)
  • Colombia has taken in 1 million Venezuelans fleeing their country's crisis already, but it will not be able to unilaterally absorb the next million refugees predicted to arrive in coming months, said Colombian vice president Marta Lucía Ramírez, calling on the international community to contribute. However she denied rumors that Colombia is participating in a plan to militarily intervene in Venezuela. (Miami Herald)
  • A U.S. Navy hospital ship is providing health services to Venezuelan migrants in Colombia this week: everything from tooth extractions to hernias, reports the Associated Press.
  • Brazil pulled out of hosting important U.N. climate talks next year, an indication that president-elect Jair Bolsonaro plans to follow through with promises to weaken environmental protections and climate change leadership. (Guardian)
  • A judicial decision is expected tomorrow in the case against Honduran environmentalist Berta Cáceres alleged killers, reports El País. Her family denounces that the investigation has been focused on the material assassins, and not the structure behind the murder. "There will be convictions, but not justice," said Berta Zúñiga Cáceres, Cáceres' daughter and the current coordinator of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares en Indígenas de Honduras (Copinh).
El Salvador
  • Eighteen military officers are belatedly standing trial for the El Mozote massacre, considered one of the worst atrocities of El Salvador's history, reports the Guardian.
  • #MMLPQTP: Argentine President Mauricio Macri's performance over the past three years has fallen far short of his promises of international investment and stability in Argentina. The G-20 meeting this week in Buenos Aires will give him an opportunity to showcase Argentina as a peaceful, lucid, and capable international protagonist -- a chance that was squandered in last weekend's aborted Copa Libertadores final, writes Sylvia Colombo in a New York Times Español op-ed. (See Monday's briefs.) Headed into next year's presidential elections, Macri's chances of reelection will depend more on his own performance than his eventual opponents' tactics, she argues. 
  • Buenos Aires will be on virtual lock-down for the meeting -- all flights over Buenos Aires will be diverted and trains, subways and all public transport will be cancelled for the duration of the summit. The city will be covered by no-go zones in an attempt to contain potential disturbances, and protests will block passersby at other points. But look at it as an opportunity to get away for a long weekend, urged Argentina's tone-deaf security minister Patricia Bullrich. (Guardian)
  • Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman landed in Buenos Aires today, where he was greeted by Argentina's foreign minister. The visit has taken on added significance after Human Rights Watch urged Argentine prosecutors to investigate the prince for alleged war crimes. (ReutersWall Street Journal and see yesterday's briefs.) Even the proposal to investigate could impact the prince's agenda and image. The Washington Post explores how Argentine law makes it unusually easy to bring international human rights cases, a legacy of its last bloody dictatorship.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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