WASHINGTON: The White House is condemning months of violent conflict in Nicaragua that has left hundreds dead.
White House Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says in a statement that President Daniel Ortega and his vice president are "ultimately responsible for the pro-government parapolice that have brutalized their own people." She adds that the United States supports efforts by the Roman Catholic Church to mediate.
More than 300 people have been killed and 2,000 wounded in more than three months of unrest against Daniel Ortega's administration.
Pro-government paramilitaries have targeted those demanding Ortega and his powerful vice president, wife Rosario Murillo, resign. Doctors have been attacked for treating the wounded.
The administration has imposed sanctions on three Nicaraguans, including the national police commissioner, for human rights abuses and corruption. Sanders said "these are a start, not an end, of potential sanctions."
Sanders said the U.S. is revoking or restricting visas for officials and their families responsible for police violence against protesters and others, and when "they have prevented victims from receiving care."
Ortega, aged 72, is a long-time bete noire of the US government. He headed a left-wing Sandinista government during the Cold War, and returned to power in 2007.
"The United States stands with the people of Nicaragua, including members of the Sandinista party, who are calling for democratic reforms and an end to the violence," said the White House.
The unrest is posing the biggest challenge to Ortega's authority since he returned to office in 2007, not least because the business sector that had underpinned previous economic stability is now spurning him over the violence.
(with inputs from AFP)