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U.S. sanctions Nicaraguan gold company

According to the Treasury Department, the mining company funnels profits from gold experts to “high-ranking members” of the regime

The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned the Nicaraguan Mining Company (Eniminas), and the president of its Board of Directors, Ruy López Delgado this Friday, June 17. López Delgado was appointed to the position last February by the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.

“Senior members of the Ortega-Murillo regime have benefited enormously from Nicaragua’s increased gold exports in recent years, due in large part to the outsized role Eniminas has played in funneling profits to private sector partners and bribes to members of the regime,”  according to a U.S. Treasury statement.

It details that “in 2021, Nicaragua’s gold exports to the United States increased by 30%, totaling more than $744 million. These exports accounted for 79% of all gold exports from Nicaragua during the year.”

According to the document, the Ortega dictatorship uses “gold revenues to continue oppressing the people of Nicaragua and engaging in activities that pose a threat to the security of the hemisphere.” 

According to CONFIDENCIAL publications, exports of raw gold grew 172.8% between 2017 and 2021, going from $322.7 million to $880.5 million. That growth of $557.8 million is one of the indications pointed out by the researcher of IBI Consultants, LLC, Douglas Farah, to affirm that the Ortega regime “is triangulating Venezuelan gold” to export it as Nicaraguan. 

“As the Ortega-Murillo regime becomes increasingly involved with Russia and continues to fill its coffers with significant revenues exploited from the Nicaraguan gold sector, the regime has turned its back on the Nicaraguan people, neglecting their livelihoods for the regime’s profits,” said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson, according to the statement.

He added that “the United States continues to stand with the Nicaraguan people against the Ortega-Murillo regime’s unjust imprisonment of political opponents and sustained assault on Nicaragua’s democracy.”

Warning at Summit of the Americas

The U.S. Treasury’s decision comes after the U.S. State Department’s Charge for Latin America, Brian Nichols, stated on Monday, June 6, that they were preparing a new round of sanctions against Nicaragua.

“We expect profound changes in the way they act and if not, we are going to take measures to express our disagreement with the political pressure that exists in Nicaragua at this moment”, said Nichols before the opening of the Civil Society Forum, within the framework of the IX Summit of the Americas.

The Treasury Department highlighted that, as a result of the sanctions, “all property and interests in property of these individuals that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control).”

In addition, “any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50% or more by such persons is blocked. OFAC regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or in transit through) the United States involving any ownership or ownership interest in blocked or designated persons.”

The last round of US sanctions against Ortega’s government took place last January 10, in the context of Ortega and Murillo’s self-proclamation for a new term in office, after a voting process without transparency, under the shadow of repression, and without political competition.

Third president sanctioned

Prior to the “mock inauguration” of Ortega and Murillo, OFAC sanctioned six regime operators, including Ramón Humberto Calderón Vindell, retired Major General, former president of the board of directors of the Nicaraguan state-owned oil company Petróleos de Nicaragua and president of the Board of Directors of Eniminas.

In July 2018, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Francisco López Centeno, who served as president of Eniminas. With the current sanction to López Delgado, there are three Ortega officials punished in the performance of that position.

Two mining industry executives explained to CONFIDENCIAL last February, that the sanction to the president of Eniminas “should not affect” the normal performance of the mining activity in the country, since the affected person is only an individual, and that the entity is just another company, “not the governing body”. 

According to both sources, for private companies that have concessions for exploration or extraction of precious metals, the risk exposure “is practically non-existent” because their governing entity is the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM), not the public company.

“Eniminas is a state-owned company, and as such, it could compete with us, although I am not aware of any private companies being involved with them,” said one of the sector sources.

“All the companies in the sector are private and the one with whom they have to interact in a forced manner according to the law, to manage permits and everything, is with the MEM. No one is forced to do business with Eniminas, and if someone does it is because they want to, but they can stop doing so if they want to,” he added.

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff

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