After Nicaragua’s new Tourism Minister Mario Salinas finished his speech Tuesday, during which he sidestepped investors’ queries about Nicaragua’s political stability (see separate story), The Tico Times pulled him aside to expand on the subject.
The 63-year-old Managua native and student of Italian architecture’s family is spread across the globe. The father of four has two children living in the United States and two siblings with grandchildren living in Costa Rica, but maintains a tremendous pride in his country.
During the brief interview, he touched on Nica-Tico relations and how investment is changing the region. Excerpts:
TT:What does President Daniel Ortega mean for foreign investors in Nicaragua and how will his alliance with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez affect the investment climate there?
MS: Ortega for investors is a guarantee for foreign investment.
In the sense that Ortega has expressed that he is open to receive national and foreign investors, and he has confirmed the government’s decision to promote foreign direct investment.
What does the Chávez alliance mean?
It means the Venezuelan government is supporting the Nicaraguan government’s economy with important projects that are going to generate jobs and facilities.
Some investors find the Chávez alliance unsettling and think it could affect the investment climate in Nicaragua. What do you say to them?
That hasn’t happened. The government of Nicaragua is managing itself. Nicaragua is currently negotiating its annual plan with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Nicaraguan Superior Private Business Council, the country’s top business chamber, has spoken about the tranquility and security in Nicaragua.
Is there a way for investors to insure themselves against political risk in Nicaragua?
I don’t know. There are U.S. insurance companies that give investments legal security, but I don’t know about political insurance.
Foreign investment is changing the face of Costa Rica. Some question whether it has been beneficial for Costa Ricans and whether it is being properly regulated. What is being done in Nicaragua to keep the public good in mind as investment pours in?
We’re encouraging socially responsible investment with a social agreement. For example, we signed an agreement three months ago with the company Gran Pacifico, in which they agreed with (the Tourism Institute) and the local government to support the health and educational infrastructure in the community with $400,000, $100,000 of which will go to ProNicaragua.
How might foreign investment change Nicaraguan culture?
Nicaragua has a colonial culture, music, painting, cuisine. In that aspect we have it all (laughs)… We have to protect the culture, conserve the traditions, support the artists. That is why this is the third year we held a festival that attracted 145 painters from 45 countries around the world.
The Inter-American Human Rights Commission recently dismissed a case accusing the government of Costa Rica of xenophobia for discriminating against Nicaraguan immigrants. Do highly publicized cases like this inhibit investment and tourism potential between the two countries?
There are specific cases, that happens, but at no time is it going to cloud the relations between the two countries, the two peoples. And what prevails is our common history. There’s a large quantity of Nicaraguans who have family in Costa Rica.
You said in your speech that you want to see Central America become a united tourism force?
I want to promote a united Central America and I will propose to the Central American Tourism Council that it support my plan to reduce the differences in our tourism sectors so that there’s more symmetry between the Central American countries.