The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the bill known as the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act of 2017, or Nica Act, Thursday, in an effort to impose economic sanctions on Nicaragua over alleged authoritarianism and corruption by President Daniel Ortega.
Nicaragua currently relies on 70 percent of foreign funds for its budget. The bill seeks to add conditions to the provisions of aid from international financial institutions to the country.
The committee's approval of the bill marks the last day before the summer recess of the U.S. Congress. The bill will now go to the House of Representatives for a final vote in September.
The Nica Act initially went out of circulation in the House of Representatives when the 2016 congressional session closed, only to be reintroduced in the U.S. House and Senate by Republican Senators Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, as well as Democrat Albio Sires in April.
The new bill, significantly more stringent than the original, seeks to impose economic sanctions on Nicaragua over alleged authoritarianism and corruption practiced by democratically-elected President Daniel Ortega and restrict the conditions of loans from multilateral organizations.
The Nicaraguan government released a statement in April calling the Nica Act an “ irrational proposal conceived by insensitive minds.”
The U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Laura Dogu said earlier this week the U.S. government and congress members have "noted which countries support Venezuela," stating that Nicaragua “does not have many friends in Washington, for the support it gives to Venezuela," affirming that congress most likely will vote “in favor of approving the Nica Act,” according to Bolsa de Noticias newspaper.
Not mincing words, Dogu concluded that it is her belief that some members of the U.S. Congress would favor the Nica Act “simply because of the support that Nicaragua is giving to Venezuela.”
Ortega is a proud ally of Maduro and used the anniversary of his nation's Sandinista Revolution as an opportunity to lambast U.S. interference and threats against Caracas.
Washington is threatening to ratchet up the pressure ahead of Sunday's elections for the National Constituent Assembly called by the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, imposing new sanctions on 13 senior officials Wednesday.
Along with the Nica Act, the Foreign Affairs Committee also passed a resolution which condemns the political, economic, social and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.