San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ortega to Meet with EU Reps

MANAGUA – The fate of almost $100 million in European budget aid for Nicaragua is on the line Dec. 10 when representatives of the European Union are scheduled to sit down with President Daniel Ortega to discuss the situation in this country.

The EU suspended aid to Nicaragua last year following the allegedly fraudulent Nov. 9, 2008 municipal elections. The EU has been clear that the aid to Nicaragua was cut over  concerns about the country’s commitment to democracy, though the Sandinista government claims it’s related to the world economic crisis.

The EU has asked for a dialogue with the Sandinista government to maintain open relations. Following one such meeting several months ago, the EU agreed to unfreeze some $10 million in suspended aid for education programs in Nicaragua.

But relations chilled again when the Sandinista government threatened to expel European diplomat Johannes Cornelis “Hans” Van Baalen, insulted The Netherlands as a “paisucho” (crappy little country), and reversed a constitutional ban on presidential reelection so that President Ortega could seek office again in 2011 (NT, Oct. 23; Nov. 20).

Those actions prompted the European Parliament on Nov. 26 to adopt a humanrights resolution calling on President Ortega to respect the constitution of Nicaragua.

The resolution said the European Parliament “condemns and deplores all the threats, insults and intimidation” against Van Baalen and his delegation.

The resolution also raised concerns about “The numerous attacks and acts of harassment to which human-rights organizations and their members and independent journalists have been subjected by individuals, political forces and bodies linked to the state.”

The European lawmakers called on Ortega to “respect the Constitution which does not allow two successive presidential mandates,” and said they “deplore the way the last local elections on 9 November, 2008 were conducted.”

As a consequence, the resolution calls for an EU election observation mission to be sent to monitor the 2011 presidential elections.

In Nicaragua, Mendel Goldstein, chief of the European Commission’s delegation to Central America and Panama, explained that the resolution, which was not approved by all parties, is “non-binding” and said the EU is interested in maintaining an open dialogue with the Sandinista government.

Though several European diplomats here have expressed their concern about the way in which the Sandinista magistrates decided to override the constitution in favor of Ortega’s reelection bid, the EU representatives are reserving further comment until their meeting with Ortega next week.

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