Biden places travel ban on Nicaraguan officials after 'sham' election

President BidenJoe BidenPharma lobby eyes parliamentarian Demand for US workers reaches historic high Biden to award Medal of Honor to three soldiers who fought in Iraq, Afghanistan: report MORE banned government officials from Nicaragua from entering the United States after the country's president, Daniel Ortega, won what Biden called a "sham" election this month.

In the Tuesday proclamation, Biden suspended entry for all "members" of the Ortega government and other elected officials, including mayors, along with the spouses and children of those banned. 

The move comes after Ortega won reelection along with his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, after banning many opposition parties, jailing leading opposition figures and cracking down on independent media. 

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Shortly after the election, Biden criticized the election as rigged and undemocratic and called Ortega, who has been in power since 2007, an autocrat. In his proclamation announcing the ban, Biden repeated his claims that Ortega's government was dangerous.

"The repressive and abusive acts of the Ortega government and those who support it compel the United States to act," said a statement announcing the ban.

"The Ortega government’s undemocratic, authoritarian actions have crippled the electoral process and stripped away the right of Nicaraguan citizens to choose their leaders in free and fair elections," it added. 

Biden signed legislation on Nov. 10 that imposed sanctions on Nicaragua by restricting multilateral bank lending. The legislation also included new initiatives to monitor corruption in the Central American country.

Nicaragua's economy has been declining in recent years. More than 100,000 Nicaraguans have fled to nearby Costa Rica since 2018, while the nation's gross domestic product has shrunk by 9 percent from 2017 to 2020.

And opposition to Ortega's regime has been met with violence. In a 2020 report from the U.S. Department of State, officials claimed that 325 killings and hundreds of disappearances during pro-democracy uprisings in 2018 have gone unanswered.

Biden's Tuesday ban also accused Nicaraguan officials — from mayors to parapolice groups and "government-controlled judges" — of orchestrating violence and implementing undemocratic practices by jailing protesters and silencing them.

"The physical and psychological abuse of political prisoners at the hands of police and prison authorities is intolerable and cannot stand," the statement said.