Biden Administration Targets Nicaraguan Gold

U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order (EO) that bans the import of gold from Nicaragua and also bans Americans from doing business with gold mines in the Central American country. Moreover, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated the Nicaraguan mining authority General Directorate of Mines (DGM) for sanctions and specifically named Salvador Mansell Castrillo, who is the Nicaraguan Minister of Energy and Mines, pursuant to U.S. EO 13851.

Biden expanded the Treasury department’s authority to hold the Ortega-Murillo regime accountable for its continued attacks on Nicaraguans’ freedom of expression and assembly. The new EO gives Treasury the authority to target certain persons that operate or have operated in the gold sector of the Nicaraguan economy, and any other sector identified by the Secretary of the Treasury in consultation with the Secretary of State. It also provides expanded sanctions authorities that could be used to prohibit new U.S. investment in certain identified sectors in Nicaragua, the importation of certain products of Nicaraguan origin into the United States, or the exportation, from the United States, or by a United States person, wherever located, of certain items to Nicaragua.

“The Ortega-Murillo regime’s continued attacks on democratic actors and members of civil society and unjust detention of political prisoners demonstrate that the regime feels it is not bound by the rule of law,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. “With President Biden’s new EO, we can and will use every tool at our disposal to deny the Ortega-Murillo regime the resources they need to continue to undermine democratic institutions in Nicaragua.”

The U.S. Treasury claims that Ortega and his cronies continue to use proceeds derived from the production and sale of gold to line their own pockets and to pay off those who keep them in power. The agency said the regime has used this power to intimidate and jail those that speak out about corruption and to sow instability around the world, including by supporting Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine. By designating DGM, the U.S. Treasury aims to cut off the Ortega-Murillo regime from its ability to use gold proceeds to oppress the Nicaraguan people.

Gold was Nicaragua’s main export last year, with total shipments abroad of the precious metal amounting to $867.6 million, of which 79% was exported to the United States, according to Reuters.

As featured in Womp 2022 Vol 11 -