US State Department places arms restrictions on Nicaragua News
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US State Department places arms restrictions on Nicaragua

The US Department of State imposed arms restrictions Thursday on the import or export of US-origin weapons and services from or to Nicaragua. In a statement to the press, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller cited “brutal repression” and “recent sham elections” as ongoing concerns for the Biden administration, vowing to continue to use “diplomatic and economic tools” to promote human rights and hold Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s regime accountable.

The restrictions, which included amendments to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), represent an escalation in US foreign policy against Ortega. Ortega originally rose to power in the Sandinista revolution of 1979. He then won the presidency in 1984 before losing a 1990 election to Violeta Chamorro. After many years as an opposition candidate, Ortega won the 2006 Nicaraguan general election and again assumed the presidency.

In his second term, Ortega has been accused of numerous human rights abuses, including the jailing of opposition candidates, torture, extrajudicial killings and arbitrary detentions. A government-led crackdown against the Catholic church drew concern from the Pope himself. Ortega has denied all accusations of torture and claims that the allegations are part of a campaign to overthrow the government by force.

More recently the Nicaraguan government has expressed opposition to the war in Gaza, calling Israeli action in the war a violation of international law. Just this month, the country launched International Court of Justice (ICJ) proceedings against Germany for providing aid to Israel. Nicaragua also accused Germany of abetting genocide against the Palestinian people.

The arms restrictions are only the latest action in a long history of American involvement in Nicaraguan politics. The Reagan administration infamously provided significant financial support and military training to the right-wing Contras paramilitary who committed numerous atrocities during the nearly decade-long civil war that followed the fall of the Somoza dictatorship.