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U.S. announces new sanctions against Nicaragua over migration, human rights abuses, ties to Russia

5/15: CBS Morning News
5/15: CBS Morning News 24:11

The Biden administration announced new sanctions and other restrictions on Nicaragua Wednesday, aiming to curb migration to the U.S. southern border and penalize the country for alleged human rights abuses and its close ties to Russia.

Some of the actions against the country are being taken to address "significant concern about the government of Nicaragua and its continued repression of the people of Nicaragua and their exploitation of migrants," a senior administration official told reporters this morning.

U.S. officials accused the leaders of Nicaragua's government — the husband-and-wife duo of President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo — of "profiting off of desperate and vulnerable migrants."

"The [Nicaraguan] regime sells visas upon arrival at their airports for migrants that require them to leave the country in 96 hours," a U.S. official explained. "So they are profiting quite substantially off facilitation of irregular migrants who ultimately, in many cases, make their way up towards our southwest border."

Because this often involves air travel, the Biden administration also issued an aviation alert today for air carriers and charter flight companies, which is meant to notify the airlines that migrants are being exploited through the use of their planes. The U.S. is recommending that these businesses participate in travel document validation processes, work with the Biden administration to identify routes that are known for migrant smuggling and report concerns about Nicaraguan government actions at the airports.

Wednesday's sanctions are both logistical and political: Russia is also implicated in the actions taken by the administration. The Training Center of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs in Managua is one of the Nicaraguan-based organizations being sanctioned because according to U.S. officials, this Russian military training center trains the Nicaraguan National Police "to prosecute political opposition."

"Daniel Ortega and Rosario — and those under their command — continue to unjustly detain their own countrymen for bravely advocating for free civil society, religious freedom and freedom of expression," one U.S. official explained. "They've chosen to align themselves with Russian's authoritarian government and follow its playbook of repression."

Lastly, the U.S. is hoping to hit Nicaragua's financial elites by sanctioning two government-run gold companies and slapping visa restrictions on 250 government members and society leaders who inhibit rights and freedoms for the Nicaraguan people, the U.S. officials said.

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