US slaps new sanctions on Nicaragua, urges restoration of democracy

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The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on nearly 100 more Nicaraguan officials for undermining democracy, days after a summit in Los Angeles where President Daniel Ortega was excluded.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was imposing sanctions on 93 judges, prosecutors, lawmakers and interior ministry officials, as he urged the release of political prisoners.

"The regime holds over 180 political prisoners, with many suffering from a lack of adequate food, proper medical care and even sunlight," Blinken said in a statement.

"The United States reiterates its call for the immediate and unconditional release of those unjustly detained and the restoration of democracy and the rule of law in Nicaragua."

Ortega is a former Marxist firebrand who ousted dictator Anastasio Somoza and fought off US-backed Contra rebels in a bloody war in the 1980s.

He returned to office in 2007 and has been accused of growing authoritarianism, with his opponents jailed before he won another term last year.

The United States has already imposed sanctions on a slew of Nicaraguan officials, including Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo, who is his wife.

US President Joe Biden refused to invite Ortega or the leftist leaders of Cuba and Venezuela last week to the Summit of the Americas, saying it was only for democracies, triggering a boycott by Mexico's president.

At the summit, Blinken also questioned Ortega's move to allow Russian troops -- in addition to US forces -- into Nicaragua for joint humanitarian assistance or anti-drug trafficking exercises.

"Countries will make their sovereign decisions. However, the idea that Russia would be a good partner when it comes to law enforcement issues or when it comes to humanitarian assistance, shall we say, does not meet the credibility test," Blinken told reporters Friday.

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