MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Perhaps noforeign citizen in Nicaragua has as muchinside access or influence over currentevents as U.S. Ambassador Barbara Moore.A native of Buffalo, New York,Ambassador Moore is a career member ofthe U.S. Senior Foreign Service, who hasheld foreign posts in Colombia, Venezuela,Chile, Mexico and Canada.As the Deputy Chief of Mission at theU.S. Embassy in Bogotá (1998-2002),Moore played a major role in the conceptionand implementation of the U.S.-authored Plan Colombia.U.S. President George W. Bush nominatedMoore for the Nicaragua Ambassadorpost in May 2002. Fourmonths later, she arrivedin Managua with her husbandSpencer and presentedher credentials toNicaraguan PresidentEnrique Bolaños.Moore recently satdown with The Tico Timesto discuss United States-Nicaragua relations, theinvestment climate here and the challengesfacing this Central American nation’s 14-year-old transition to democracy.The following are excerpts from aninterview with Moore.TT: The reality of Nicaragua appearsto be changing faster than the internationalimage of Nicaragua. When youtalk to people back home, what do youfind are some of the most common misconceptionsabout Nicaragua, and howdo you address them?B.M.: Nicaragua and I have been workingto address the stuck-in-the-past image,the image of the 1980s, of a war-torn countrywith much civil strife. That has not beenthe case for 14 years, but that was the lasttime Nicaragua got a lot of news coverage.There is a lot of good that is happeningin terms of getting the macroeconomic pictureback in focus, a democratic governmentfirmly taking hold, a successful transferof power over the years.I am afraid that some of the same politicalproblems that are day-to-day here, thatare part of the maturing process, are ofgreat concern to us and should be of concernto the Nicaraguans.Now, if any news coverage filtersthrough to the international media, thoseconflicts are portrayed as more of a crisisthan really is the case here. The fact is, thegovernment has moved to solve propertydisputes, especially the ones we track ofAmericans whose properties were confiscatedby the Sandinistas. And they are takingthe steps to deal with property issues, aswell as address disputes that affect the attitudeof investors.They have negotiated CAFTA rounds,which represents a Nicaragua that is properlylooking to the world to open itself toinvestment and trade, first its neighbors andthe United States, but more generally to beready for the globalized economy.On a more personal level, with friendsand family, I speak of the natural endowmentsof this country; it is quite a lovelyplace. There is a lot of unspoiled territory.What is the atmosphere in Nicaraguafor foreign investors, retirees and otherexpats thinking about living here?Nicaragua welcomes foreign investors,welcomes retirees. Property values andconstruction costs are very attractive.Nicaragua is working to normalize propertyregistry to better protect investors.We still have a challenge in the judicialsector. Judicial insecurity will be a longer termproblem to correct. But there is certainlya great consensus that progress is neededin that area and steps are being taken.What is the current state of U.S.-Nicaraguan relations?We have excellent relations with thisgovernment and I think we have excellentrelations with the people of Nicaragua, aswell. The fact that this country hasembraced democracy, the fact thatPresident Bolaños has embraced a tradearrangement with the United States andlooks to our support in the internationalarena. Not just our donor support, our politicalsupport for his reform agenda here,which we share, totally.In the post-war years, what is the roleof the United States in Nicaragua?I think our initial role was to rebuild theinstitutions of democracy and rebuild theeconomy.We now are looking more to help thecountry generate its own economic growth,and we can have more of a supportive role.I have tried to make that point, although weare not always viewed that way.But since there now is coincidence ofagenda, we want Nicaragua to take the initiativeand for the United States to be ableto support those areas of coincidence. Ithink that’s very much what CAFTA isabout. We want Nicaraguan companies andthe Nicaraguan economy to grow.We are opening opportunities; we arenot directing those opportunities.How hands-on is the United States’role here. Is it like spotting someone on abalance beam, or is it more like getting inthe pool and teaching someone to swim?USAID can be quite hands-on becauseit is involved at a grassroots level, helpingindividual farmers decide what crops hecan best market, helping him find anddevelop those markets, and finding ways toget those products to market.The political level of our relationship isone more of spotting … There is a certainexaggeration in the perception of our roleand what we do. We hold meetings (withpolitical leaders here) to be clear on what isin the United States’ interest, but I wouldsay that 100% of the time we are in supportof the government’s initiatives here, we arein total harmony on the political agenda.Do you request these meetings withpolitical leaders or do they come lookingfor you?Both.Does the U.S. government think thatDaniel Ortega and the Sandinistas arehousebroken?The United States government does notthink that Daniel Ortega, nor ArnoldoAlemán, represent viable leaders for thefuture of Nicaragua.What about the Sandinistas as aparty?At this point Daniel Ortega is the leaderof the Sandinista party and I think has astrong control over the party.If the Sandinistas were able to go in adifferent direction, if say Herty Lewites(the popular Sandinista mayor ofManagua) were able to emerge as aviable candidate within the party, wouldthe United States still consider them to bethe Sandinistas (of old)?No, I think changed circumstanceswould have to be analyzed.Over the past 15 years, do you thinkthe image of the United States inNicaragua has changed for the good, thebad or the ugly?I hope that our core of good friends inNicaragua has expanded as our role haschanged and peace has come to Nicaragua,and as we have positive engagement in supportingthe strengthening of democraticinstitutions and helping to solve the economicproblems, both on a macro-levelwith debt forgiveness and the HIPC initiative,as well as on more of a micro levelwith opening trade opportunities. I hopethat translates into a more mature andexpandingly positive relationship betweenthe two countries.