As Nicaragua slips deeper into a state of despair, Democratic nations have struggled with how to handle the crisis.
Nicaragua's reigning government has turned to violent tactics to keep citizens in line. In the last few months of political unrest, there have been at least 180 deaths in the country.
In the city of Masaya, the streets have been deserted and the police station remains the only government stronghold. Food and resources are now scarce.
In response to the dire situation that has been perpetuated by the government, the U.S. has slapped three Nicaraguan officials with sanctions.
"Today's actions are in connection with the horrific activities that we're seeing in Nicaragua. The United States is deeply concerned about the ongoing crisis in Nicaragua and the violence perpetrated by security forces against demonstrators," said a senior administration official to reporters on a call. "The Nicaraguan government's violent response has included beatings of journalists, attacks against local TV and radio stations, and assaults on mothers mourning the deaths of their children."
Francisco Javier Diaz Madriz, a commissioner with Nicaragua's National Police; Fidel Antonio Moreno Briones, who has directed violent acts by the Sandinista Youth and pro-government armed groups; and Jose Francisco Lopez Centeno, a governing party official and oil executive- all have been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for their brutality.
The individuals will be barred from doing business transactions with U.S. citizens and their assets in the U.S. will be frozen.
The U.S. senior official also called out President Daniel Ortega for using force to maintain control in the country.
"President Ortega and his inner circle continue to curtail freedoms and enrich themselves, while ignoring the Nicaraguan people's calls for the democratic reforms they demand, including free, fair and transparent elections," said the administration official. "This situation is simply unacceptable."
The protests started in April after Ortega decreased pension benefits.
As a Marxist–Leninist, Ortega has implemented controversial socialist policies like wealth redistribution and land reform.
Ironically, Ortega led a movement in the 1870's against the former President/Dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle and later was elected president in 1984.
Now, Ortega is being compared to the socialist Nicolas Maduro, whose government is responsible for the dire situation in Venezuela.
“I think he probably is looking at the Maduro example and thinking to himself, ‘This guy survived for years even though most of the people in his country are rebelling against him. I can do the same thing,’” said Stephen Kinzer, a senior fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs to The Washington Times.
It appears as though Ortega will do whatever to remain in power.
“What’s the alternative for him? Don’t forget that overall these tyrants like Ortega hangs the threat of accountability,” said Kinzer. “Once you’re out, you no longer control the courts, you no longer control investigators or the police, [and] everything is going to come out.”
Prior to the U.S. imposed sanctions, multiple human rights groups took a stand against the violence by Nicaraguan government officials and police.
“As the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights presents its findings in Washington, policemen and pro-government armed gangs are killing protesters with total impunity in the streets of Nicaragua,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Democratic leaders in the Americas should urgently call on President Ortega to end the bloodbath in the country and dismantle pro-government gangs.”
The Organization of American States (OAS) has called on Ortega to halt the abuses on his citizens and has condemned the“acts of violence, intimidation, and threats directed against the general public” in Nicaragua.
In a recent report by the Inter- American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR,) the findings reveal that the Nicaragua government used multiple violent tactics which were "aimed at deterring participation in the demonstrations and putting down this expression of political dissent."
Some of these brutal tactics included "excessive and arbitrary use of police force" and setting up obstacles to detour those partcipating in demonstrations from getting emergency medical attention.
Author's note: The sanctions are a step in the right direction. The government and its officials need to lose resources to lose power. But things in Nicaragua will only get worse before it gets better. It's not quite as bad as Venezuela yet, but it looks like the country could get there sooner than later.