President Daniel Ortega acknowledged that his recent fiery anti-capitalist discourse before the U.N. General Assembly Sept. 26 might have upset some of his fellow Nicaraguans, but told them not to worry about it.
“I understand your concerns, but well, liberty of expression, it’s that simple; I made use of liberty of expression,” Ortega told a group of the country’s top business leaders at the recent meeting held with the Superior Private Business Council (COSEP).
The President said that following his speech, in which he called the United States the “biggest and most impressive dictatorship that has existed in the long history of humanity,” (NT, Oct. 5), he was congratulated by his fellow Central American Presidents from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
“The first to come up and congratulate me were our Central American brothers…they were very content! They didn’t tell me, ‘What a barbarity, what you said.’ No, they were very content,” Ortega said.
In the hours following his speech, Ortega said he met with his “North American brother” John Danilovich, who heads the U.S. Millennium Challenge Account and is a personal friend of U.S. President George W. Bush.
“We were talking and, clearly, he mentioned my discourse, and with much respect,” Ortega said. “I spoke to him with total frankness.”
Ortega said that he explained to Danilovich that, “It is difficult for you to understand, because since you were a kid you grew up as part of the empire and it is hard for you to understand what we are thinking or feeling on the other side.”
Ortega said he also talked to Danilovich about the importance of the United States investing more resources in Latin America to stem the northern floodtide of emigrants.
“This is the only way, but they don’t understand,” Ortega said.
The President, who in the past has mocked the United States’ $175 million Millennium Challenge Account program for Nicaragua, now says he is going to ask the United States to invest more in the hurricane- devastated Caribbean coast, which he said would help to counter drug-trafficking influences in that region.
Ortega said he then visited with Nicaragua’s Ambassador to the United States, Arturo Cruz, and talked by telephone to Thomas Shannon,U.S.Assistant Secretary of State to the Western Hemisphere.
Shannon, too, expressed concern over the U.N. speech, Ortega said.
“He was a little worried about the discourse, thinking that it meant that Nicaragua was going to back out on all the accords that we have (with the United States),” Ortega said. “I told him that one thing is to have different ways of thinking … but that doesn’t affect our bilateral agenda with the United States in all areas.”
Ortega said that Shannon is satisfied with the explanation, and said that he would go ahead and send the planned U.S. delegation to Nicaragua to negotiate the missiles-for-medical equipment proposal made by the Sandinista government earlier this year.
Shannon reportedly told Ortega that he was concerned after the U.N. speech that the Sandinista government was no longer willing to receive the U.S. delegation, but Ortega said the speech doesn’t change anything.
“I told him our position is serious, regardless if we have differences, because (in the United States) you, too, have differences,” Ortega said.
Ortega concluded by telling the business sector that dealing with the United States doesn’t mean being a kiss-up to Uncle Sam.
“When one speaks with the truth, he wins respect,” Ortega said. “When one wants to stay on someone’s good side, they don’t tell the truth, even when they are in disagreement, they simply say that everything is fine…that is only to invite bad treatment and disrespect from those who have power.”