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U.S. imposes sanctions, visa restrictions on Nicaragua over repression, migrant smuggling

WASHINGTON — The United States on Wednesday imposed visa restrictions on more than 250 members of the Nicaraguan government and levied sanctions on three Nicaraguan entities in retaliation for “repressive actions” and a failure to stem migrant smuggling through the Central American country.

Senior administration officials told reporters that the officials subject to visa restrictions included police and paramilitary officials, prosecutors, judges and public higher education officials.

At the same time, the Departments of State, Homeland Security, and the Treasury issued a joint alert to notify airlines and travel agents about the ways smuggling and human trafficking networks are exploiting legitimate transportation services to facilitate illegal migration to the United States through Nicaragua.

“Actions by the Nicaraguan government are of grave concern. President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo have put in place permissive-by-design migration policies,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.

The Nicaraguan government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Increasingly migrants have been flying into Nicaragua and then heading north overland to the U.S.-Mexico border as some smugglers have promoted the route through social networks.

Many migrants in recent years have started their journeys in Brazil or other South American countries, but flying into Nicaragua avoids the often perilous journey through the jungle region known as the Darien Gap on the Colombia-Panama border.

The administration of President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has struggled with record numbers of migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border and, as he runs for reelection in November, voters have increasingly

Read more on nbcnews.com