San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

U.S.’ Valenzuela to Meet with Ortega in Nicaragua

Amid growing concern in Washington, D.C. about the Sandinista government’s anti-democratic tendencies in Nicaragua, the U.S. Embassy this week announced that its government’s top policy expert on Latin America will be visiting Managua on Thursday to meet with President Daniel Ortega.

Arturo Valenzuela, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, is scheduled to arrive in Managua after a visit to neighboring Costa Rica. In both countries he is scheduled to meet with political leaders, business heads and representatives of civil society, according to the U.S. State Department.

Valenzuela, a Chilean-American academic who was assumed his post in the administration of President Barack Obama last November, is expected to discuss issues of security, democratic governability and economic competitively, among other issues.

Valenzuela, a former professor of political science at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., is considered to be a specialist in issues related to democracy, Latin American politics and U.S.-Latin American relations, according to his embassy-provided biography.

For some Nicaraguan foreign policy insiders, the visit from the high-ranking U.S. official is well past due.

“This visit is long overdue because our democracy, rule of law, institutionalism and transparency have been in a vicious downward spiral since Jan. 10, 2007 (when Ortega took office),” said opposition lawmaker and ex-Foreign Minister Francisco Aguirre, a former Nicaraguan ambassador to the United States.

With the upcoming U.S. mid-term elections representing a potential shift in the balance of power in Washington, D.C., Aguirre said the Obama administration may be responding to pressure from the international media and Republican politicians who are raising concerns about Ortega and the state of Nicaraguan democracy. 

“I think (Valenzuela) wants to get first-hand knowledge of what’s going on here,” Aguirre told The Nica Times. “The crisis in Nicaragua has been off the radar in Washington, but I think it is going to start getting greater scrutiny.”

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