US envoy ‘will not be admitted’ to Nicaragua, vice president says

Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo says decision due to new US ambassador’s ‘interfering’ attitude.

Nicaragua will not allow the new United States ambassador to enter the country due to his “interfering” attitude, Vice President Rosario Murillo has reiterated, amid months of escalating tensions between the two nations.

The US envoy, Hugo Rodriguez, “will not under any circumstances be admitted into our Nicaragua”, said Murillo, who is also the wife of President Daniel Ortega.

“Let that be clear to the imperialists,” she said on Friday, reading a statement from the foreign office on state media, as reported by the AFP news agency.

The US Senate confirmed Rodriguez’s nomination to the ambassador post on Thursday, despite Nicaragua saying in July that it would reject it.

The diplomatic fight comes as the Biden administration has imposed a slew of sanctions, including US visa restrictions, on Nicaraguan state officials and their relatives over a crackdown on opposition politicians and human rights activists in the Central American nation.

Ortega has overseen a sweeping arrest campaign that targeted opposition leaders and presidential hopefuls in the lead-up to a November 2021 vote that saw the longtime leader re-elected to a fourth consecutive term as president.

But Washington and its allies, including the European Union, slammed the vote as a “farce”. Human rights organisations also denounced the crackdown, which has seen dozens of people arrested and sentenced to often lengthy prison terms.

Other opposition figures have fled the country, often to neighbouring Costa Rica.

Ortega has said his government’s actions are lawful, accusing the opposition figures of not being real candidates, but rather “criminals” and “terrorists” who posed a danger to the country.

In July, Nicaragua withdrew its approval of Rodriguez’s ambassador posting in the country after Rodriguez criticised the Ortega government.

Rodriguez, a former senior adviser in the US Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, told a US Senate hearing that he would “support using all economic and diplomatic tools to bring about a change in direction in Nicaragua”.

He also described Nicaragua as a “pariah state in the region” and branded Ortega’s government a “dictatorship”.

Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada responded that the government, “in use of its powers and in exercise of its national sovereignty, immediately withdraws the approval granted to the candidate Hugo Rodriguez”.

On Friday, Nicaragua’s former ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Arturo McFields, slammed the government’s decision to deny entry to Rodriguez, saying the US-Nicaraguan relationship had reached “one of its worst crises” in over a decade.

McFields resigned from his post in March, accusing Ortega’s administration of rights abuses.

Earlier this week, the Reuters news agency reported that Nicaragua had asked the European Union’s ambassador to leave the country, according to three diplomatic sources.

European Union Ambassador Bettina Muscheidt was summoned to the foreign ministry, where she was declared “non grata” and notified that she should leave Nicaragua, one of the diplomatic sources said.

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