Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the Nicaraguan government traded bitter criticisms Friday over charges of intimidation and repression.
The exchange started with a statement by the Managua government opposing an effort in Congress led by Ros-Lehtinen to restrict its access to loans in what would be a form of economic sanctions.
Without citing the Miami Republican by name, Nicaragua accused her and other lawmakers of having "been involved in disinformation and intimidation campaigns in the media against Democratic, pluralistic and progressive processes in Latin America and the Caribbean."
The alleged interference in Latin America appeared to be a reference to lawmakers' past criticism of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments.
Ros-Lehtinen has been especially critical of Cuba and its allies in Venezuela and Nicaragua, along with Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and other Cuban-American members of Congress.
Ros-Lehtinen fired back at the Nicaraguan government's latest salvo.
"Ortega's baseless accusations are just his latest attempt to detract attention away from the human rights abuses and the acts of corruption and intimidation he has been perpetrating in Nicaragua, but nobody is fooled," she said.
While Ros-Lehtinen targeted Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, the statement criticizing her bill came from the government he heads, not from him personally, although he all but certainly approved it.
And although Ros-Lehtinen said Ortega had attacked her, the Nicaraguan government statement did not mention her or any other lawmaker by name.
The House on Wednesday unanimously passed a measure that would place U.S. limits on loans to the Ortega government unless it accepts international observers and other steps toward holding free elections.
Ros-Lehtinen and Rep. Albio Sires, a Cuban-American Democrat from New Jersey, were lead sponsors of the legislation. The Senate has not pass a companion bill.
Ros-Lehtinen said her measure's main aim was to “stop Ortega from accessing international funds until he adopts reforms that promote democracy, strengthen the rule of law, respect human rights, and celebrate free, fair, and transparent elections supervised by electoral observers.”
Photo credit: Emily Michot