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Latin America

Head of Nicaraguan state oil company resigns after being targeted by U.S. sanctions

Francisco Lopez is treasurer of the ruling Sandinista party and a close associate of President Daniel Ortega
10 Jul 2018 – 07:01 PM EDT
Petronic Crédito: Petronic

Francisco 'Chico' López resigned as president the state-owned Nicaraguan Oil Company (Petronic), and as president of the Nicaraguan Mining Company (Eniminas), barely a week after the Trump administration added his name to a list of persons sanctions from doing business in the United States under the so-called Global Magnitsky Act which targets serious human rights abusers and corrupt public officials.

Nicaragua is in the grip of a three-month-old political crisis that has seen more than 300 people killed in street protests, mostly by gunfire from police and progovernment paramilitaries. The crisis erupted when Ortega, a 72-year-old former leftwing revolutionary, decreed a reform of the social security system which reduced benefits and increased taxes, but has since morphed into a popular uprising to end his rule.

López is treasurer of the ruling Sandinista party and is considered one of Ortega's closest confidantes,, as well as being vice president of Albanisa, a multi-million dollar Venezuela-Nicaragua joint oil investment enterprise, with a web of private investments across the country, from real estate to farming.

His resignation was accepted by President Daniel Ortega, on July 7, one day after the sanctions, according to official state publication, La Gaceta.

López, 67, used his position for his own benefit and that of his family, and "has placed numerous individuals throughout the government who have helped him steal millions of dollars on an annual basis," according to the U.S. Treasury Department. It noted that senior officials within the Nicaraguan government and the FSLN "have used ALBANISA funds to purchase television and radio stations, hotels, cattle ranches, electricity generation plants, and pharmaceutical laboratories."

The Global Magnitzy Act freezes all U.S. assets belonging to the targeted person, as well as banning them from any busienss dealings with U.S. persons, companies and institutuions. Along with López, the Trump administration also named the de facto director of the National Police, Francisco Díaz, and the secretary of the Mayor's Office of Managua, Fidel Moreno.

The U.S. last year also sanctioned the head of Nicaragua's Supreme Electoral Council, Roberto Rivas, who later resigned.