Analyst: Relations ‘chilling’ between U.S. and Nicaragua

September 5, 2008

GRANADA, Nicaragua – The decision this week by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez to cancel his trip to Nicaragua later this month represents a “chilling of relations between the United States and Nicaragua,” according to a top foreign policy analyst here.

Ex-Foreign Minister Emilio Alvarez said yesterday that Gutierrez´s decision to cancel his trip to meet with President Daniel Ortega indicates relations between the two governments could be “less friendly” moving forward.

The U.S. Embassy has confirmed that Gutierrez canceled his trip here because “international circumstances have changed.” U.S. Ambassador Robert Callahan would not elaborate.

Arturo Cruz, Nicaragua´s ambassador to the United States, has described Gutierrez in the past as one of Ortega´s closest allies in the U.S. administration of George W. Bush. The two have met on several occasions and his trip here later this month was going to be an effort to strengthen relations even further, while exploring possibilities of bringing new U.S. investment to Nicaragua.

Alvarez says that the cancelation sends a clear diplomatic message that the United States is not – at the moment – interested in strengthening those ties with Ortega´s government.

For Alvarez, the decision is a response to Ortega´s recent controversial recognition of two Georgian separatist provinces that are seeking independence following Russia´s military intervention in that region last month. Ortega announced Sept. 2 that Nicaragua will officially recognize the rebel provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, making Nicaragua the only country in the world besides Russia to do so.

Alvarez said Ortega´s recognition of the rebel provinces has to do with a “nostalgia” for leftist solidarity with the Soviet Union in the 1980s and a political gamble that Nicaragua could benefit from Russian oil if Ortega buddies up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But in recognizing the breakaway provinces, Alvarez says, Ortega is sticking his nose in an international problem he has nothing to do with, threatening relations with the United States and the European community.

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