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U.S. sanctions three Nicaraguan officials for rights abuse, corruption

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U.S. sanctions three Nicaraguan officials for rights abuse, corruption

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By Daphne Psaledakis and Lesley Wroughton

(Reuters) - The United States on Thursday sanctioned three Nicaraguan officials for their involvement in "human rights abuses and corruption," the U.S. Treasury Department said.

The three officials sanctioned are Francisco Javier Diaz Madriz, Nicaragua's police commissioner; Fidel Antonio Moreno Briones, the secretary of the Managua mayor's office; and Jose Francisco Lopez Centeno, president of the state-owned oil company Petronic.

The sanctions were imposed on the officials because of concerns over the "ongoing crisis in Nicaragua," including "violence perpetrated by security forces and others that have resulted in the death of at least 220 demonstrators, and nearly 1,500 injured," the statement said.

Under the sanctions, any assets belonging to the three officials in the United States are blocked and U.S. citizens are prohibited from engaging in transactions with them or entities they own or control, the Treasury said in a statement.

"The violence perpetrated by the government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega against the Nicaraguan people and the efforts of those close to the Ortega regime to illicitly enrich themselves is deeply disturbing and completely unacceptable," Sigal Mandelker, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.

The United States accused Madriz of ordering the Nicaraguan police to set fire to a house in the capital, Managua, killing six people, including two children. It said police also asked gang leaders in Nicaragua to attack anti-government protesters, fired on and killed peaceful protesters.

Briones ordered attacks against elderly and young people protesting peacefully, ordered violent attacks against anti-government marchers and beat protesters and stole money from Managua municipal projects, according to the Treasury.

Centeno exploited taxes and fines collected by the government, siphoned funds from infrastructure projects and used his position to his and his family's benefit, the statement said.

The State Department said the United States would hold those responsible for the violence and intimidation campaign responsible.

"These actions must end," the department said in a statement.

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Jonathan Oatis)

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