The U.S. State Department imposed sanctions on 100 Nicaraguan municipal officials who were implicated in human rights breaches for their part in shutting down a renowned university and imprisoning a well-known bishop.
Travel to the United States is prohibited as part of the sanctions. The government-seized Central American University (UCA), a Jesuit institution, is one of the civic places that the officials are accused of closing down and suppressing civil society.
The government a year ago imprisoned Bishop Rolando Alvarez, a fierce critic of President Daniel Ortega who was sentenced to 26 years in jail.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Saturday that the sanctioned officials allowed or facilitated violent campaigns, unjust detentions and restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“We continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of Bishop Alvarez in Nicaragua and an end to the systematic repression,” added Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols on his social media accounts.
Nicaragua’s government did not respond to a request for comment.
Washington previously sanctioned top figures in Ortega’s administration including Vice President Rosario Murillo, three of her children, senior government officials and police and army top brass. The European Union and Canada have joined those sanctions.
UCA, the only university the government did not control, was founded by Jesuits in 1960. It was the cradle of a student rebellion against the government in 2018, which Ortega’s security forces violently put down.
Since then, the university has been stripped of public funds and its main officials have been blocked from returning to the country when they have left on business trips.