State Department slaps travel restrictions on Nicaraguan ‘thugs’

The State Department announced new punitive visa restrictions on “individuals responsible for human rights abuses or undermining democracy in Nicaragua,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement Thursday.

“The political violence by police and pro-government thugs against the people of Nicaragua, particularly university students, shows a blatant disregard for human rights and is unacceptable,” said Nauert.

Nicaraguan police forces have cracked down on a series of demonstrations in recent weeks, killing nearly 100 people and injuring hundreds more, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The Nicaraguan government has reported a significantly lower death toll.

On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence accused Nicaragua’s government, led by President Daniel Ortega, of “committing and condoning terrible violence against its people.”

“The United States and our allies must speak with one voice and say to the Ortega government: The violence must end, and the violence must end now,” Pence added to applause from a crowd of visiting senior Western Hemisphere officials.

In her statement, Nauert would not publicly identify the affected officials, but said they include “National Police officials, municipal government officials, and a Ministry of Health official,” as well as some of these officials’ family members.

“We emphasize the action we are announcing today is specific to certain officials and not directed at the Nicaraguan people,” said Nauert. “We will continue to monitor the situation and take additional steps as necessary.”