Human rights group urges sanctions on Nicaragua’s Ortega

Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, shows journalists a report about Nicaragua at the HRW office in Washington on Wednesday June 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Luis Alonso Lugo) –The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Human Rights Watch called Wednesday on governments in the Americas and Europe to impose sanctions on Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and at least five high-level security officials for a crackdown on protests that began in April 2018.

The human rights organization said sanctions should involve travel bans and asset freezes and are necessary because many protesters were subject to abuse that in some cases amounted to torture.

“Daniel Ortega has shown no real commitment to justice for the victims of the brutal crackdown by National Police and armed thugs during the 2018 protests,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at HRW.

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Protests against social security reforms began last year and grew in scope to demand Ortega’s exit from office and early elections. The demonstrations were put down forcibly by security forces and armed pro-government militias, with at least 325 people killed in the crackdown, more than 2,000 wounded and over 52,000 who fled the country, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has said that not a single investigation has been opened into security forces implicated in abuses and just one sentence has been handed down against a member of a pro-government group.

The Nicaraguan embassy in Washington, D.C. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Wednesday, HRW released a 98-page report based on official documents, photographs, medical reports and interviews with 75 people, including victims and their relatives.

It called for sanctions on Ortega, as well as three leaders of the National Police, the chief of El Chipote prison where victims were held and the chief of the country’s department of special operations.

The U.S. administration has imposed sanctions on at least six Nicaraguan officials, including Rosario Murillo, who is the vice president and wife of Ortega, their son Laureano Ortega and current National Police Chief Francisco Díaz.

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But other countries have taken less harsh measures.

Canada has cut nearly $20 million in direct aid to Ortega’s government, and the European Parliament in March approved a strongly worded resolution criticizing Nicaragua on human rights issues and calling for sanctions.

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Luis Alonso Lugo on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/luisalonsolugo