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Senior Nicaraguan Election Official Sanctioned by the Trump Administration

The Trump administration has blacklisted Robert Jose Rivas, the president of Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council. The Council or Consejo Supremo Electoral is somewhat similar to the U.S. Federal Election Commission (FEC), but it has a lot more powers including maintaining a national voter registration list.

Yesterday the Trump Administration launched a new sanctions regime targeting human rights abusers and corrupt actors around the world, Rivas was among the individuals added to the U.S. government watch list. The Treasury Department press release says, in part:

Building on the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act passed by Congress last year, President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order (Order) today declaring a national emergency with respect to serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world and providing for the imposition of sanctions on actors engaged in these malign activities.

In addition to several Russian nationals, several persons in Latin America made the list including Rivas:

As President of Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council, drawing a reported government salary of $60,000 per year, Roberto Jose Rivas Reyes (Rivas) has been accused in the press of amassing sizeable personal wealth, including multiple properties, private jets, luxury vehicles, and a yacht.  Rivas has been described by a Nicaraguan Comptroller General as “above the law,” with investigations into his corruption having been blocked by Nicaraguan government officials. He has also perpetrated electoral fraud undermining Nicaragua’s electoral institutions.

You can read the Treasury notice here. The State Department also issued a statement.

Individuals and companies sanctioned by the U.S. government are called “Specially Designated Nationals” or “SDNs.”  An SDN’s assets that come under U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and they are denied entry to the United States. If an SDN has a visa to enter the United States, that visa is canceled. In addition, U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in business and other transactions with SDNs.

According to Nicaraguan opposition leaders with whom I have talked to over the past few years, the CSE is in much need of reform. The opposition is hopeful that the new U.S. position will help foster the right political climate to allow them to be a stronger voice in the Nicaraguan political system.

I did an interview with Nicaragua’s La Prensa newspaper yesterday where I talked about President Trump’s re-orientation of U.S. policy toward Latin America, particularly places such as Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. You can read it here.

N.B., sources on Capitol Hill have advised me that another anti-corruption measure called the NICA Act may be re-introduced in the Senate before Congress adjourns for the year. Just in time for the Christmas holidays, It will likely include a strong bipartisan group of co-sponsors. Our most recent blog on NICA Act is available here.

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