By Ismael Lopez
SAN JOSE (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department on Saturday sanctioned 100 Nicaraguan municipal officials accused of participating in human rights violations for their roles in the closure of a popular university and jailing of a prominent bishop.
The sanctions include a ban on travel to the United States. The officials are accused of repressing civil society and closing civic spaces such as the Central American University (UCA), a Jesuit school that was seized by the government this week.
The government a year ago imprisoned Bishop Rolando Alvarez, a fierce critic of President Daniel Ortega who was sentenced to 26 years in jail.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Saturday that the sanctioned officials allowed or facilitated violent campaigns, unjust detentions and restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“We continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of Bishop Alvarez in Nicaragua and an end to the systematic repression,” added Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols on his social media accounts.
Nicaragua’s government did not respond to a request for comment.
Washington previously sanctioned top figures in Ortega’s administration including Vice President Rosario Murillo, three of her children, senior government officials and police and army top brass. The European Union and Canada have joined those sanctions.
UCA, the only university the government did not control, was founded by Jesuits in 1960. It was the cradle of a student rebellion against the government in 2018, which Ortega’s security forces violently put down.
Since then, the university has been stripped of public funds and its main officials have been blocked from returning to the country when they have left on business trips.
(Editing by Drazen Jorgic and Cynthia Osterman)
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