New U.S. Ambassador Robert J. Callahan arrived in Managua yesterday afternoon with his wife, Deborah, to assume his new envoy role, which will begin as soon as his credentials are accepted by President Daniel Ortega.
Quoting Nicaraguan national hero Ruben Darío and commenting pleasantly on the country’s natural beauty, the friendliness of its people, and the “outstanding” quality of its baseball, Callahan delivered a brief statement in Spanish, saying he “looks forward to working with the government and the people of Nicaragua as together we continue to build a mature, respectful and mutually beneficial relationship.”
His first words echo those of President Daniel Ortega, who last week called for a “relationship of respect” with the United States.
Ortega said that his government would act quickly to receive Callahan’s credentials, remembering that the U.S. government extended the same “gesture of respect” to Ambassador Arturo Cruz, Nicaragua’s envoy to Washington, D.C.
“The important thing is to create relations of respect, which means that we aren’t going to remain quiet about the things that are incorrect about the United States policy,” Ortega said. “I am not going to be embarrassed about our principles. We say that we are anti-imperialists…I say it when I talk to them and I say it in public.”
Callahan, meanwhile, said that “diplomatic protocol” prohibits him from commenting on bilateral relations until he presents his credentials. However, he said, he considers himself an optimist and “someone who believes the future will be more prosperous, peaceful, just and democratic than the past.”
Callahan, a veteran Foreign Service member, was once the right-hand man to John Negroponte, the former U.S. ambassador to Honduras, considered one of the architects of the Contra war in Nicaragua.
This will be Callahan’s fourth post in Latin America, most recently in Bolivia in 1992.
During his statement before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee April 16, after being picked ambassador-designate to Nicaragua, Callahan said: “I am no stranger to challenging assignments, and I do think that Nicaragua will prove to be just that.”