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US imposes visa restrictions on more Nicaraguan officials over human rights

The United States is imposing visa restrictions on dozens of Nicaraguan municipal officials for their role in alleged attacks on human rights, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Washington has previously sanctioned top figures in Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega's administration including Vice President Rosario Murillo, three of her children, senior government officials and police and army top brass.

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Human rights groups say Ortega has in recent years repressed opposition politicians, news outlets, business leaders and the Catholic Church.

Blinken said on Friday the State Department was taking steps to impose visa restrictions on 100 Nicaraguan municipal officials, adding that till date the number of such restrictions is over 1,000.

"Since August, President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo have shut down and seized the Central American University and the Central American Institute of Business Administration, two of the country's most renowned centers of higher learning, under arbitrary and unfounded pretenses," Blinken said.

"Ortega and Murillo have targeted independent academic institutions, disrupting the hopes and dreams of Nicaraguans seeking to build a better future in their homeland."Nicaragua's government has committed serious and systematic violations which amount to crimes against humanity, a United Nations-appointed team of human rights experts said in March.

The three-person body said the government has committed acts of torture, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detention since 2018.

It named Ortega and Murillo, who is his wife, as participants in the violations.

Ortega first came to power as a leader of the left-wing Sandinista guerrilla movement that toppled the Somoza dictatorship in a 1970s revolution. He was in and out of office over the years but took power again in 2007 and has ruled since.