U.S. maintains aid suspension to Nicaragua

March 6, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. government decided Wednesday it will continue to withhold $64 million in aid promised to Nicaragua over suspicions the ruling Sandinistas rigged last year´s municipal elections in the Central American country.

The funds were pledged to Nicaragua by the Millennium Challenge Corp., a U.S. government development program that operates in poor countries.

The MCC´s directing council, presided over by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, made the decision not to completely cut off the aid, but rather to suspend it until the Nicaraguan government makes a “meaningful change” in its way of governing.

MCC Deputy CEO Rodney Bent said U.S. officials prepared a letter for Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega outlining conditions for the resumption of aid to the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

The U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua, Robert Callahan, referred last year to “profound doubts over the transparency of the count” in the Nov. 9 elections that saw Ortega´s leftist Sandinistas take a majority of Nicaraguan mayoralties, including Managua.

Nicaragua´s main opposition, the Liberal Constitutional Party, completely reject the official results, claiming that irregularities and violations of election law occurred before, during and after the balloting.

The European Union also froze $31.7 million in aid to Nicaragua after the municipal elections because in its judgment the country has not fulfilled requirements of governability, transparency and respect for human rights.

Ambassador Callahan noted last December that since 1990, the U.S. Agency for International Development has given Nicaragua $1.4 billion in aid for education, health care, infrastructure, strengthening democratic processes and environmental protection.

During the same period, he said, Washington forgave $500 million in Nicaraguan debt and financed food programs for $175 million.

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