On September 5, OFAC issued regulations to implement Executive Order (EO) 13851 related to the situation in Nicaragua.  Signed on November 27, 2018, EO 13851 blocks the property of persons who served as Nicaraguan government officials at any time on or after January 10, 2007, persons who are responsible or complicit in serious human rights abuses, undermining democracy, threatening peace and security, or corruption and expropriation.  It also blocks leaders or officials of entities that have engaged in such practices, as well as entities owned by persons blocked by the EO.

EO 13851 does not restrict general exports or imports involving Nicaragua.  Rather it is targeted at prohibiting US persons from engaging in transactions with designated persons and entities, and any undesignated entities that are owned 50 percent or more by one or more designated entities or persons.

The order also authorizes the US government to block the property of any persons, including non-U.S. persons, that materially assist, or provide financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services in support of, persons and entities blocked by the order, as well as persons that provide support for human rights abuses, threats to peace and security, corruption and other activities described in the order.

Over the past year, the U.S. government has taken a series of steps to pressure Nicaraguan president Jose Ortega and his regime.  In conjunction with the signing of EO 13851, OFAC imposed sanctions on Nicaraguan vice president and first lady Rosario Murillo and national security advisor Nestor Moncado.  On December 20, 2018, President Trump signed into law the Nicaraguan Human Rights and Anticorruption Act, restricting international financing and imposing further sanctions on institutions and individuals responsible the Nicaraguan government’s violence and infringement of the civil rights of protesters. In April 2019, the United States sanctioned Ortega’s son, as well as Banco Corporativo SA (Bancorp) and in June, the U.S. government and Canada announced sanctions against four more Nicaraguan government officials.

These new regulations provide additional information as to the scope of EO 13851.  As is often typical, these regulations provide for a number of exempt transactions and authorizations.  These include:

  • Transactions related to personal communications
  • Importation or exportation of any information or information materials
  • Transactions ordinarily incident to travel to or from any country, including payment of living expenses and acquisition of goods for personal use
  • Payment related to the provision of certain legal services
  • Provision of emergency medical services

Finally, OFAC also noted that it intends to supplement these regulations in the future.