San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Nicaragua's Ortega unconcerned Nicaragua's Ortega unconcerned

President Daniel Ortega has taken a political stance that could make it very difficult for the United States and several European countries to thaw foreign aid frozen last year over concerns that his party rigged the November 2008 municipal elections.

“The yanqui and the some European (nations) are saying that they are going to take away our bread if we don´t negotiate the municipal governments. But the municipal governments will not be negotiated!” Ortega bellowed March 13 during a rally in Catarina, on the northern shores of Lake Nicaragua. “The people won (these mayoral offices) with their vote, and the people will defend them with their conscience, their courage and their sprit of struggle.”

Ortega added a warning to the governments of the United States and Europe to “not even allude (to the idea) that we are going to negotiate the municipal governments.”

The U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) last week ruled to uphold its suspension of $62 million in development aid over concerns about the government´s “manipulation of municipal elections” last November, in which Ortega´s Sandinista National Liberation Front party is accused of stealing more than 40 mayoral posts. Several European countries have also suspended much-needed aid to Nicaragua due to similar concerns about a breach in the democratic process here.

U.S. Ambassador Robert Callahan said last week that Ortega´s government has 90 days to “resolve the problem of the elections of last November” if it hopes to continue to receive new aid under the Millennium Challenge program.

“This is the key point,” Callahan said about the United States´ continued concern over last year´s elections. The United States, he said, is “waiting for a resolution to this problem.”

Ortega, however, says his government refuses to “accept conditions” on foreign aid, and seems to have already written off the MCC program, despite admitting last week that it needs all the help it can get as hemisphere´s second-poorest economy teeters on the fringe of recession.

“The truth is that this country, with or without the Millennium Challenge Account, will continue to advance forward,” Ortega said.

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