OFAC Sanctions Trio of Nicaraguan Officials For Alleged Human Rights Abuses

Citing violence allegedly perpetrated against protesters in Nicaragua by government forces, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced last week the enactment of sanctions against three officials in the Nicaraguan government.

Per the department, Nicaraguan National Police Commissioner Francisco Javier Diaz Madriz, Secretary of the Mayor’s Office of Managua Fidel Antonio Moreno Briones, and Vice President of ALBA de Nicaragua (ALBANISA) Jose Francisco Lopez Centeno are responsible for crackdowns against those involved in protests that began on April 18.

OFAC says the trio share responsibility in the allegedly brutal government response, citing a death toll so far of 220, with injuries reported to 1,500 others. The department alleges actions ordered by the three men to include beatings of journalists, attacks on local media outlets, and violence against mourners of those already killed.

United States officials say Diaz is the effective head of Nicaragua’s police force and, as such, has been involved in extrajudicial killings, possibly while in cahoots with local gangs. Nicaraguan police have also been accused of firing into peaceful crowds, allegedly under Diaz’s orders.

Allegedly involved in ordering brutal attacks against protesters at least since 2013, Moreno is believed by the United States government to be the liaison between city governments and the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). He’s also assumed by investigators to be the leader of the Sandinista Youth who, allegedly under his orders, have attacked and beaten protesters on several occasions. Moreno is also alleged to have embezzled significant amounts of money from city coffers for FSLN operations.

As Vice President of ALBANISA and President of the Nicaraguan state-owned oil company Petronic, Lopez has allegedly embezzled millions of dollars for his personal use and for others within his circle. He has also allegedly used his high position to direct lucrative government contracts to friends and family. In addition to his own benefit, Lopez has also allegedly allowed senior government officials to use ALBANISA monies to purchase various and divers assets for themselves, including television and radio stations, hotels, cattle ranches, electricity generation plants, and pharmaceutical laboratories.

Acting under an executive order signed by President Trump late last year to bolster enforcement of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act of 2012, the OFAC has ramped up efforts to sanction those the United States government alleges are involved in human rights abuses, including by blocking assets and ceasing to recognize property interests asserted by those individuals in property within the jurisdiction of the United States. Thus far OFAC has designated 76 people and organizations have been identified under the Trump order.

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