MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- Nicaragua's finance minister warned banks Wednesday that the government will sanction those that participate in a general strike scheduled for Thursday to pressure for the freeing of political prisoners.
Iván Acosta said the banking system has a responsibility to the public sector to be open because it is regulated by the government.
Acosta said on the state television Channel 6 that "no bank can close to the public during normal hours, because it is a public service regulated by the government."
He noted that some banks had participated in general strikes last year, alleging danger to their workers. But Acosta said that reasoning doesn't hold now that the country "is completely in a normal and peaceful situation."
"Any call or any business decision by those groups is going to be sanctioned because they are regulated by law," he said.
The labor ministry also warned in a statement that it would sanction businesses that suspended their operations though it was unclear what the agency could do to private businesses that decided not to open.
Opposition leaders had announced the scheduled strike early Wednesday as a way to continue applying pressure to the government of President Daniel Ortega to comply with his commitment to release hundreds of political prisoners.
One group of released political prisoners, however, expressed their disagreement with the call for a general strike. The Union of Nicaraguan Political Prisoners in a statement called for "more belligerent" actions against the government, citing the killing last week of prisoner Eddy Montes, a dual Nicaraguan-U.S. citizen imprisoned since last fall.
The government moved 100 prisoners to house arrest Tuesday as the Organization of American States was meeting in Washington to again call for the release of all political prisoners.
And Tuesday night, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights said it would urge the Nicaraguan government, at the request of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, to change the confinement conditions of 17 political prisoners, for example to home detention.
Five of those were already moved to house arrest this week.