EU sanctions Nicaragua’s first lady and vice-president over human rights violations

The European Union has slapped sanctions on Nicaragua’s first lady and Vice-President Rosario Murillo and seven other senior officials accused of serious human rights violations or undermining democracy, amid a sweeping crackdown on opposition politicians in the Central American country.

EU headquarters said in a statement that the sanctions, which include asset freezes and bans on travel in Europe, “are targeted at individuals and are designed in this way not to harm the Nicaraguan population or the Nicaraguan economy”.

In the past two months, police in Nicaragua have arrested and detained more than 20 opposition figures and several candidates who might have been able to challenge President Daniel Ortega in elections on 7 noviembre.

Ortega, 75, alleges the country’s April 2018 street protests were part of an organized coup attempt with foreign backing. He is seeking a fourth consecutive term in the election. Most of those arrested in the crackdown are being held incommunicado, at undisclosed locations and with no access to lawyers.

Murillo, 70, plays a central role in Ortega’s government, acting as de facto chief of staff, the main spokesperson and a micromanager whose approval is needed for every ministerial interview or policy draft.

El vicepresidente, known for her idiosyncratic blend of socialism, Roman Catholicism and new age beliefs, has also been a fiery defender of the government’s crackdown.

The EU said the sanctions show that the 27-nation bloc stands “ready to use all its instruments to support a democratic, peaceful, and negotiated solution to the political crisis in Nicaragua”.

It said that last week’s detention of a seventh possible presidential election candidate “sadly illustrates the magnitude of the repression in Nicaragua and projects a grim picture for the upcoming elections”.

The latest move brings the total number of Nicaraguan officials subject to EU sanctions to 14.

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