U.S. State Department hits Nicaraguan officials with visa restrictions


A woman exits the Universidad Centroamericana (Central American University) in Managua on Aug. 16, 2023. The Jesuit Central American University (UCA) of Nicaragua announced the suspension of all its activities after a court ordered the confiscation of its assets and funds after accusing it of being a “center of terrorism.” / Credit: STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 21, 2023 / 13:45 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Department of State over the weekend announced visa restrictions against dozens of Nicaraguan officials amid broad civil liberties violations from the country’s government, including the seizure of a Jesuit university in the country’s capital city.

The State Department said in a press release on Saturday that it was “taking additional actions” against dictator Daniel Ortega’s “relentless attacks on civil liberties” by “imposing visa restrictions on 100 Nicaraguan municipal officials” who have taken part in those violations.

The department specifically mentioned the regime’s takeover of Universidad Centroamericana (Central American University), a Jesuit university in Managua that Ortega’s forces seized last week. That seizure left nearly 10,000 students without access to education and drew international rebuke.

The State Department in its press release also noted the capture of Bishop Rolando Álvarez, whom the department said was among the “courageous individuals” in Nicaragua who “support a free civil society.”

“We will continue to work with the international community to promote accountability for those who threaten democracy in Nicaragua,” the department said, “and we remain committed to promoting the fundamental freedoms of the Nicaraguan people and respect for their human rights.”

Prior to its seizure of the school, Ortega’s government had frozen the bank accounts and assets of the institution. The government said it suspected the university of promoting terrorism within its curriculum.

The United Nations Human Rights Council said following the takeover of the university that it “condemn[ed] the seizure” of the Catholic school, which it described as “a historical center of academic freedom and critical thinking, and the impact on the right to education, indispensable for the realization of human rights.”

Earlier this month the dictatorship had blocked two priests from reentering the country after they attended World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal. The government has also reportedly been expelling dozens of nuns from the country over the past 18 months.

Ortega’s dictatorship has further held Matagalpa Bishop Álvarez in prison since 2022 on charges of “treason.” The bishop had spoken out against the regime’s persecution of the Catholic Church in that country, leading to his arrest.

Álvarez was offered the chance to depart the country in exile in February but refused to do so, reportedly declaring that he would not depart Nicaragua unless ordered to do so by the pope.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom says on its website that Álvarez has been sentenced to 26 years in prison by the Nicaraguan government.

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