Biden Targets Nicaraguan Gold Industry To Weaken Ortega
The Biden administration is ratcheting up pressure on President Daniel Ortega’s authoritarian rule in Nicaragua, threatening a ban on Americans from doing business in the nation’s gold industry, raising the possibility of trade restrictions, and stripping the US visas of some 500 government insiders, US officials told Joshua Goodman and Christopher Sherman of the Associated Press (AP).
Photo Insert: It’s the first time the US has identified a specific sector of the economy as potentially off-limits and can be expanded in the future to include other industries believed to fund Ortega’s rule.
The actions are the latest and perhaps most aggressive attempt by the US to hold the former Sandinista guerrilla leader accountable for his continued attacks on human rights and democracy in the Central American country as well his continued security cooperation with Russia.
Previous rounds of sanctions have focused on Ortega, his wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo, and members of their family and inner circle. But none of those moves have managed to loosen Ortega’s grip on power
The latest target by Ortega’s government: the Roman Catholic Church. In August, security raided the residence of a bishop, detaining him and several other clergy.
The new executive order President Joe Biden will sign Monday greatly expands a Trump-era decree declaring Ortega’s hijacking of democratic norms, undermining of the rule of law, and use of political violence against opponents a threat to the US′ national security.
Together with the Treasury Department’s simultaneous sanctioning of Nicaragua’s General Directorate of Mines, the order all but makes it illegal for Americans to do business with Nicaragua’s gold industry.
It’s the first time the US has identified a specific sector of the economy as potentially off-limits and can be expanded in the future to include other industries believed to fund Ortega’s rule.
The executive order also paves the way for the US to restrict investment and trade with Nicaragua — a move recalling the punishing embargo imposed by the US in the 1980s during Ortega’s first stint as president following the country’s bloody civil war.
The Biden administration’s targeting of the gold industry could sap Ortega’s government of one of its biggest sources of revenue.
Gold was the country’s largest export in 2020 and the country, already the largest producer of the precious metal in Central America, is looking to double output in the next five years.
Among foreign investors active in the country is Condor Gold, whose CEO, Mark Child, appeared in a photo with the Nicaraguan leader in a September presentation for investors prepared by the UK-based company.