San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Top Nicaraguan business leader visits Washington to lobby against aid cut

GRANADA, Nicaragua – With the clock ticking down the final hours before the board of directors of the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC) makes its final decision tomorrow regarding the future of U.S. development aid for Nicaragua, César Zamora, president of the Nicaraguan-American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM), was in Washington, D.C., yesterday meeting with government officials to lobby on behalf of his beleaguered country.

“It is now more than ever that we need the help of our friends in our struggle to preserve democracy,” Zamora said after meeting with the top congressional advisors to Rep. Elliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Sub Committee on Western Hemisphere Affairs. “Those who have benefited from the Millennium Challenge Corp. are mostly small producers who have generated thousands of new jobs, so it´s not fair to make them the victims of this decision.”

Citing “deep concern” over Nicaragua´s democratic process, the MCC announced Nov. 24 that it had frozen the remaining $64 million in unpledged aid in its $175 million compact for Nicaragua. Though President Daniel Ortega has tried to dismiss the aid freeze as a decision that only makes Nicaragua “feel a bit freer,” that sentiment is not shared by many other people in Nicaragua, whose economy depends greatly on foreign aid.

Zamora, in his visit to Washington yesterday, met with heads of the Association of Latin American Business Chambers as well as various advisers to well-placed members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The Nicaraguan business leader also visited the MCC offices in Washington, where he met with the top aide to MCC head John Danilovich and argued why Nicaragua should not be cut out of the program.

Zamora also sent a letter lobbying on Nicaragua´s behalf to the MCC, the House of Representatives, President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama.

“We have come here to defend the thousands of (Nicaraguans) who have benefited from the MCC,” Zamora said. “Nicaraguans have to find an immediate solution to our political problems so we can start trying to attract investment, generate jobs and combat poverty.”

Zamora, in an interview with The Nica Times last month, likened the MCC´s decision to suspend aid to a “nuclear bomb” on the Nicaraguan economy.

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