Nicaragua's military chief and finance minister were placed on the US sanctions blacklist Friday as Washington stepped up pressure on the regime of President Daniel Ortega.

The US Treasury said it would block any property of Julio Cesar Aviles, commander-in-chief of the Nicaraguan Army, and Ivan Adolfo Acosta, minister of finance and public credit, in US jurisdictions, and ban Americans and US companies, including banks with US offices, from doing business with them.

It said Aviles protected the paramilitary forces that are accused of responsibility for the deaths of 300 protesters and other acts of violence after political uprisings that began in April 2018.

The Treasury said Acosta arranged financial support for Ortega and also threatened banks to not support opposition strikes last year.

"The Ortega regime's continued violations of basic human rights, blatant corruption, and widespread violence against the Nicaraguan people are unacceptable," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

"The United States will target those who prop up the Ortega regime and perpetuate the oppression of the Nicaraguan people," he said.

The US has already slapped sanctions on the president, his wife and two of his sons.

Under US sanctions: Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega (R) and Army General Julio Cesar Aviles (L), seen in 2012
Under US sanctions: Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega (R) and Army General Julio Cesar Aviles (L), seen in 2012 AFP / HECTOR RETAMAL

In December it blacklisted his son Rafael Ortega Murillo, who the treasury called the "key money manager" for his family.

In March the US placed sanctions on the Nicaraguan National Police and three NNP commissioners.

And on May 4, the European Union put the NNP chief and five other senior government officials on its sanctions list.

Ortega, in power in Nicaragua since 2007, was most recently elected in 2016 for a mandate that would keep him in office until 2021.

Regime forces and pro-government militias have been blamed for more than 300 deaths since April last year, when protests against his rule mushroomed into an uprising that was brutally suppressed.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that the sanctions aimed to hold the Nicaraguan officials "accountable"for supporting Ortega.

"The United States will continue to apply pressure to the Ortega regime until it stops repressing the Nicaraguan people, respects human rights and fundamental freedoms, and allows the conditions for free and fair elections and the restoration of democracy in Nicaragua," Pompeo said.