San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Minister Called on the Rug Over Venezuelan Aid

The National Assembly has asked Finance Minister Alberto Guevara to appear before a legislative committee this week as part of an investigation into the Ortega government s Venezuelan slush-fund scandal.

Opposition legislators called for Guevara s testimony after a recent Central Bank audit of Venezuelan aid has left more questions than answers.

The Central Bank dedicated nearly two pages of its 52-page report on international cooperation to Venezuelan aid, which it estimated at $184.9 million in 2007. The report accounted for just a fraction of President Daniel Ortega s claim last June that Venezuela has injected more than $520 million in aid and financing into Nicaragua since he took office in January 2007.

These issues need to be clarified as part of this investigation, said Liberal Party legislator Jose Pallais, adding that Guevera was scheduled to appear Sept. 11 before the National Assembly s directorate.

While speaking to residents of the northern border town of Ocotal last month, Guevara said the Ortega government made sure that not one Córdoba of Venezuelan aid went through the National Assembly.

His comments caused uproar from opposition legislators who have demanded transparency and sparked calls for investigation.

According to the Central Bank report, Nicaragua in 2007 received $69.3 million in financing under Ortega s oil deal with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez $33.8 million of that which was donated under the auspices of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), while the $35.5 million was through private-sector financing. -In addition, Venezuela donated $16.4 million in cash, $2.9 million in budget support, and $49.8 million in private-sector donations and loans, including material goods in response to Hurricane Felix, funding for internships and school construction.

Ten million dollars was provided in loans for farming cooperatives, and $3.6 million in other donations.

Of the more tangible donations, another $46.4 million was invested in two new power plants.

Deputy Foreign Minister Manuel Coronel Kautz told local press that the difference in Ortega s estimate and that of the Central Bank is because the administration hasn t been able to spend all of the $520 million yet.

Blake Schmidt


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