U.S. slaps sanctions on Nicaraguan army chief, finance minister

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Friday sought to further pressure on Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega by imposing another round of sanctions, this time targeting the country's army chief and finance minister.

In a statement, the U.S. Treasury Department said it had imposed sanctions on Julio Cesar Aviles, Nicaragua's army commander-in-chief, and Ivan Adolfo Acosta, its finance and public credit minister.

"The Ortega regime's continued violations of basic human rights, blatant corruption, and widespread violence against the Nicaraguan people are unacceptable," U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.

Friday's action freezes any U.S. assets held by the officials and generally bars Americans from dealing with them.

U.S. officials have previously targeted Ortega's leftist government as the Trump administration seeks to increase pressure amid anti-government protests against what critics have said is Ortega's increasingly authoritarian-style rule.

In March, Washington sanctioned the Nicaraguan National Police over accusations of human rights abuse. Last year, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Ortega's son as well as three other Nicaraguan officials, among others.

"The United States will continue to apply pressure to the Ortega regime until it stops repressing the Nicaraguan people, respects human rights and fundamental freedoms, and allows the conditions for free and fair elections and the restoration of democracy in Nicaragua," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a separate statement on Friday.


(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Andrea Ricci and Chris Reese)