The United States has imposed visa restrictions on Nicaraguan officials following weeks of protests in which at least 127 people were killed.
In a statement issued on Thursday, US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the visa restrictions applied to “individuals responsible for human rights abuses or undermining democracy in Nicaragua.”
Nauert did not identify which officials were targeted, but said they include national police officials, municipal government officials and a ministry of health official.
“The political violence by police and pro-government thugs against the people of Nicaragua, particularly university students, shows a blatant disregard for human rights and is unacceptable,” she said.
“We are sending a clear message that human rights abusers and those who undermine democracy are not welcome in the United States.”
Bishops in Nicaragua met President Daniel Ortega on Thursday to present a proposal with the aim of reviving talks to end the political crisis.
Auxiliary bishop of Managua Silvio Jose Baez said Ortega had requested a “period of reflection” to consider the proposal.
In a statement, the bishops said the plan “reflects the feelings of many sectors of Nicaraguan society”.
Nicaragua’s Catholic Church called off talks on May 31, because they said Nicaraguan people “continue to be repressed and murdered”.
Anti-government protests erupted in mid-April over a pension reform bill, that has since been scrapped.
The protests have broadened to voice frustration over corruption, the autocratic style of Ortega and Murillo, limited options to change the country’s politics in elections, and the president’s control over the congress, the courts, the military and the electoral board.
Protesters have taken to the streets, demanding Ortega to stand down. Authorities and paramilitary forces loyal to Ortega have been accused of using “lethal force” to crack down on the protests.
Late on Wednesday, four young people were reportedly killed when pro- and anti-government groups clashed in Chinandega and Nueva Guinea.
Ortega, a former Sandinista rebel who first ruled between 1979 and 1990 before returning as president 11 years ago, has kept power by maintaining leftist rhetoric while ensuring an accommodation with powerful private industry and keeping up trade with the US.