Thursday, July 05, 2018

Trump Sanctions Nicaraguan Officials

On the heels of Vice President Mike Pence's Latin America trip, the Treasury Department has sanctioned three Nicaraguan officials, including the National Police Commissioner, since the police have been deeply involved in repression.

So the roving eye of the administration has finally fully reached Nicaragua. I can't think of any reason that the outcome won't be like Venezuela, where the individual sanctions have symbolic but not much practical impact. It has been over three years since President Obama first rolled them out. Venezuela is hit much harder by financial sanctions, though at this point it is impossible to know how much those sanctions have changed any calculus within the armed forces.

I also can't think of any reason why the Trump administration wouldn't just treat Nicaragua in the same way. If individual sanctions do not yield the desired result, as they won't, then broaden them to more people. If that doesn't work, then go after financial transactions of whatever sort. That will certainly hurt the regime more, but we don't know whether that will yield the desired result either.

Now, what are those desired results? That's not so clear, actually. Here is what one Trump administration official said in May:

“We’re watching this with laser focus because we need to ensure that, the people have called for dialogue, the government participates; the people have called for investigations, the government does that; the military has said we’re staying out of that, they continue to do so,” a senior administration official told McClatchy.
But the official said the United States is ready to act if the Ortega government doesn’t cooperate with the independent investigation, fails to stem the violence or uses the dialog as a stalling tactic. 
“We have to let part of that process play out because we demanded this process,” the administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

That is pretty vague. There is no way to measure whether dialogue is a ploy. I mean, it almost certainly is a ploy, but at what point do you make that determination? Same with investigations--they can reasonably take a really long time, but how long is too long? The last point about the military is easier because in fact the army doesn't want to be involved. The violence has been perpetrated largely by police and armed gangs.


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