MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Nicaragua on Thursday named as its National Police director a high-ranking officer sanctioned by the United States for alleged abuses against protesters opposed to President Daniel Ortega's government.
New police chief Francisco Diaz, who is also related to Ortega through the marriage of their children, replaces Aminta Granera, who months earlier left the top police job. An announcement in the government's official Gazette said Diaz assumes the post Sept. 5.
At least 317 people have been killed since April in protests demanding Ortega leave office, with most of the deaths blamed on security forces or armed, allied civilians, according to local and international rights groups.
On July 5, the U.S. State Department announced that Diaz was being sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act for what it called "serious human rights abuse against the people of Nicaragua" during the crackdown by police under his command.
Ortega has accused protesters of attempting a coup against him and vowed to serve out the rest of his term, which ends in 2021. Vice President and first lady Rosario Murillo has called the demonstrators "terrorists."
Several other Nicaraguan officials have also been sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act for alleged rights abuses or corruption.
Also Thursday, Carlos Pastora, general manager of Channel 10 TV, said in a statement that a media boss from the government-aligned Channel 8 was sent to his studios and tried to install himself in the same job there and get involved in editorial decisions.
"They want to force me to hire a journalist from Channel 8 who comes to see and regulate the news broadcasts," Pastora said in the letter addressed to the human rights commissioner of Honduras. Pastora is Honduran.
He added that he tried to return to Honduras due to the situation but was not allowed to.
Nicaraguan authorities say he is under investigation for possible money laundering.
Channel 10 is owned by Mexican businessman Remigio Angel Gonzalez, considered an associate of Ortega. U.S. lawmakers have called for Magnitsky sanctions against him as well.