Large crowd of protesters (© Marvin Recinos/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators in Managua, Nicaragua, on June 30 seek justice for people killed in recent protests against the government. (© Marvin Recinos/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. government has sanctioned three Nicaraguans for human rights abuses and corruption, including the commissioner of the country’s national police for directing the beating and killing of peaceful protesters.

The American actions are in response to the ongoing crisis in Nicaragua and violence that has left at least 220 demonstrators dead and nearly 1,500 injured, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a July 5 statement.

The government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s response to peaceful protests has included beatings of journalists, attacks against local TV and radio stations, and assaults on mothers mourning the deaths of their children, Treasury said.

The sanctions, plus earlier actions, show “the United States will expose and hold accountable those responsible for the Nicaraguan government’s ongoing violence and intimidation campaign against its people,” Heather Nauert, State Department spokesperson, said in a July 5 statement.

Those sanctioned are:

  • Francisco Javier Diaz Madriz, commissioner of Nicaragua’s National Police, for alleged abuses that include extrajudicial killings under his command. The Nicaraguan police also reportedly set fire to a home in Managua, killing a family of six — including two young children — and shot at neighbors to prevent a rescue.
  • Fidel Antonio Moreno Briones, leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front–affiliated Sandinista Youth, for ordering the Sandinista Youth to beat protesters. Moreno also allegedly participated in the attack that killed the family of six in Managua. Moreno is accused of stealing money from Managua municipal projects and using municipal funds to pay for Sandinista National Liberation Front activities.
  • Jose Francisco Lopez Centeno, vice president of Albanisa, which imports and sells Venezuelan petroleum products, and president of the Nicaraguan state-owned oil company, Petronic, for using his position to benefit himself and his family. His crimes include using family-owned companies to win government contracts. Lopez also allegedly siphoned funds from infrastructure projects by negotiating personal fees and has placed numerous individuals throughout the government to help him steal millions of dollars.

Under the sanctions, any assets that these three have in the U.S. are blocked, and U.S. citizens are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.

The U.S. actions were authorized under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act of 2016, a law that allows the U.S. to publicly name the individuals, outline their crimes, and forbid them to use the U.S. financial system or engage in business with U.S. citizens.