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Threat of US sanctions against Nicaragua looms

News from Nicaragua | Thursday, 11 October 2018 |

Sanctions will not only deepen the poverty of those already impoverished but will also deepen the polarisation within Nicaragua making it even more difficult to reach a political settlement to the crisis.

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The Nicaragua Investment Conditionality Act (NICA Act) was first introduced into Congress in 2015 but to date has never been signed off.

The main purpose of the bill was to direct US representatives to use their influence to block loans to Nicaragua through the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

 Running at US$250 million annually, these loans from multilateral organisations are being invested by the Nicaraguan government in education, social programmes, electrification, roads and other infrastructure initiatives.

The provisions of the NICA act have now been integrated into  a  broader, more draconian companion bill called  The Nicaragua Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act of 2018 (S. 3233).

On 26 September the new bill was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is due to be debated by the Senate some time very soon.

As well as influencing multilateral loans to Nicaragua the bill has the following provisions:

  • Calls for sanctions under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act – which allows the US to seize assets of individuals from other countries it deems responsible for human rights abuse or political corruption, and also employ other sanctions;
  • Calls for restricting visas for travel to the US to individuals in the Nicaraguan government and their associates;
  • Calls for annual reporting on the state of Nicaraguan democracy;
  • Directs agencies to create a “civil society” engagement strategy – which in the current context largely means expanding support for groups in opposition to the government;

The provisions would be valid until 2023, although these could be waived if Nicaragua adopts reforms that satisfy US  policy-makers.

This Act has little to do with US concern for human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Nicaragua and everything to do with escalating the Trump administration regime change agenda.

Not only will it deepen the poverty of those already impoverished but will also deepen the polarisation in Nicaragua itself making it even more difficult to reach a political settlement to the crisis.