Biden targets Nicaraguan gold industry in new move against Daniel Ortega: NPR

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is pictured in Havana, Cuba in December 2021. The Biden administration has dramatically increased pressure on the Ortega administration in Nicaragua.

Ismael Francisco/AP

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Ismael Francisco/AP

MIAMI — Biden administration ramps up pressure on president Authoritarian rule of Daniel Ortega Nicaragua threatens to ban Americans from doing business in the country’s gold industry, increasing the likelihood of trade restrictions and stripping about 500 government officials of their US visas.

The action, which stemmed from an executive order signed by President Joe Biden on Monday, seeks to hold the former Sandinista guerrilla leader accountable for continued attacks on human rights and democracy in the Central American country. The latest and perhaps most aggressive attempt by the United States. He continues security cooperation with Russia.

past sanctions It focuses on Ortega, his wife and Vice President Rosario Murillo, and members of their family and inner circle. Ortega’s latest target is the Roman Catholic Church. In August security forces raided the bishop’s residence and detained him and several other clerics.

The new executive order vastly outperforms Trump-era orders in which Ortega hijacked democratic norms, undermined the rule of law, and declared political violence against dissidents a threat to U.S. national security. It’s an expansion.

Combined with concurrent sanctions by the Treasury Department against Nicaragua’s Mining Directorate, the order makes it largely illegal for Americans to trade with Nicaragua’s gold industry. It is the first time the United States has identified a particular sector of the economy as potentially off-limits, and may expand to include other industries considered to fill government coffers in the future. there is.

pave the way for trade restrictions with Nicaragua

The executive order also paves the way for the United States to restrict investment and trade with Nicaragua. The move is reminiscent of punitive embargoes imposed by the United States in the 1980s, during Ortega’s first term as president following the country’s bloody civil war.

“The Ortega Murillo government’s continued attacks on democrats and members of civil society and its unjust detention of political prisoners show that it feels unbound by the rule of law. said Brian Terror, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Information. E. Nelson. “We can and will use every means at our disposal to deny the Ortega Murillo government the resources it needs to continue to undermine our democratic institutions.”

In daily comments to official media on Monday, Murillo did not directly mention the expanded US sanctions, but said Nicaraguans are “defenders of national sovereignty”.

She also read a letter from Ortega in which he questioned the West’s “aggressive imperial ambitions”.

Monday’s actions could signal the beginning of a new offensive aimed at the broader economy. This has been reluctant for the Biden administration to pursue out of fear of furthering the country’s woes and freeing more immigrants. US Border Patrol Encounters Nicaraguans About 164,000 on the southwestern border, more than three times the number from the previous year.

At the same time, dissatisfaction is growing in Washington over how Nicaragua’s economic elite has remained largely silent amid the Ortega crackdown.

Gold is Nicaragua’s biggest export

With the Biden administration targeting the gold industry, the Ortega administration could lose one of its biggest sources of revenue. Gold is her country’s biggest export in 2020, and the country, already the largest producer of precious metals in Central America, aims to double her output over the next five years.

The country will export 348,532 ounces of gold in 2021, according to Nicaragua’s central bank, and the country’s mining association plans to export a total of 500,000 ounces in 2023.

Among the foreign investors operating in the country are: condor goldCEO Mark Child was pictured alongside Nicaraguan leaders at a September presentation for investors prepared by the UK-based company.

“He’s basically completely behind the project,” Child said in an interview in March. 90 minute meeting with Ortega. “That meeting…basically gives a big green light to building project finance and greatly de-risks the project.”

Toronto- and London-listed Condor is licensed to build and operate three open-pit mines, the most advanced of which holds 602,000 ounces of gold, worth nearly $900 million at today’s prices It is believed that Condor is partly owned by a company owned by American mining engineers who have worked in the country for decades.

Shares of Condor rose slightly by 2 cents (3.8%) following the US announcement. But the shares of Caliber Mining Corp, another Toronto-listed junior mining company with operations in Nicaragua, fell 17 cents, or 17%.

The Vancouver-based company has several mining projects in Nicaragua that are believed to contain 2.9 million ounces of gold.

The action also revokes U.S. visas for Nicaraguan officials

As part of Monday’s actions, the Treasury also froze the US assets of Ortega’s close aide, Reinaldo Lenin Cerna. According to the Treasury, Cerna was the head of national security during Ortega’s first presidency and is said to have assisted in the assassination of former dictator Anastasio Somoza’s chief of security.

In addition, the Department of State will also grant U.S. visas to more than 500 individuals and their families in Nicaragua who work for the Ortega government or who develop, implement, and benefit from policies that undermine the country’s democracy. It plans to withdraw, a US official told The Associated. Press the anonymous terms and discuss the action. It previously froze U.S. assets of defense ministers and other members of the security forces in connection with the shutdown of more than 1,000 non-governmental organizations.

Previously, the Biden administration also imposed sanctions on state-owned mining companies. It also reallocated the country’s sugar quota, depriving it of valuable U.S. subsidies worth millions of dollars each year.

Nicaraguans began fleeing the country in 2018 after Ortega violently suppressed mass street protests. First we headed to neighboring Costa Rica. Then, in 2021, security forces began rounding up key opposition leaders, including seven of his potential challengers to Ortega, ahead of that year’s presidential election. With no meaningful challengers, Ortega stayed on for his fourth consecutive five-year term, and more Nicaraguans left their homeland. Biden targets Nicaraguan gold industry in new move against Daniel Ortega: NPR

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