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US imposes sanctions on Nicaraguan president's son

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Washington (AFP)

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on Rafael Ortega Murillo, the son of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, alleging he was guilty of corruption and money laundering to enrich the family.

"Rafael Ortega is the key money manager behind the Ortega family's illicit financial schemes," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

"Treasury is targeting Rafael and the companies he owns and uses to launder money to prop up the Ortega regime at the expense of the Nicaraguan people."

Rafael Ortega works with Rosario Maria Murillo De Ortega, the vice president and first lady, "to generate profits, launder money, and gain preferential access to markets," the statement said.

Daniel Ortega's forces and pro-government militias have been blamed for more than 300 deaths since April last year, when protests against his rule mushroomed into an uprising that was brutally suppressed.

Critics accuse Ortega, a former rebel hero, of running a repressive leftist dictatorship.

The government has attributed the protests to a failed coup attempt and Ortega has accused Catholic bishops of being "coup plotters" for supporting the protesters.

The Organization of American States released a report in November saying Ortega's government "controls and subordinates" branches of government so tightly that it "makes the democratic functioning of the country unviable."

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