Ottawa cut off direct aid to Nicaragua last summer over human rights concerns

OTTAWA — The federal government is suspending all direct aid to Nicaragua, citing what it calls "the deteriorating human rights situation" in the Central American nation under President Daniel Ortega.

Ortega's government has cracked down violently on protests that began last April as demonstrations against cuts to the country's retirement system, but quickly turned to calls for the president to step down.

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The opposition has said more than 640 people were being held for political causes, although the government says the actual numbers are far smaller and it has released many prisoners in recent months.

Canada's suspension of direct aid to Nicaragua was first reported by the CBC, which says a Global Affairs memo from last August recommended against making any public announcement when the decision was made.

In an email to The Canadian Press on Sunday, a spokeswoman for Global Affairs Canada confirms the government made the decision last summer.

Brittany Fletcher says Ottawa will continue to support projects led by non-governmental organizations, with a focus on helping vulnerable groups.

"President Ortega’s repressive actions against his people are unacceptable. We continue to consider all diplomatic and policy options at our disposal in order to support the Nicaraguan people," Fletcher said in an email.

According to the government's "Statistical Report on International Assistance," Global Affairs Canada provided $9.37 million in bilateral international assistance in 2017-2018.

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