San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Nicaragua’s Ortega was invited to Obama summit, letter shows

At best Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has some work to do improving communications with his embassy officials in Costa Rica. At worst, he was caught by the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry bending the truth over whether he was invited to attend a May 3 summit with U.S. President Barack Obama in Costa Rica.

On Thursday, Ortega told members of the press he didn’t know if he’d attend the early May meeting of the Central American Integration System (SICA) in San José, because he wasn’t invited.

“We can’t speculate,” he said about Obama’s visit, “because until now, we don’t have anything formal, nothing official,” Ortega told the Nicaraguan press on Thursday.

But late Thursday night, Ortega was called out on his bluff by the Nicaragua Dispatch, a Granada-based English-language news site operated by journalist Tim Rogers.

“Ortega, who routinely skips Central American summits hosted by Costa Rica, told Sandinista government media outlets yesterday afternoon that he can’t comment on whether or not he will attend the May 4 regional summit with Obama and his Central American counterparts because he was not officially invited by the Costa Rican government,” the Nicaragua Dispatch reported.

“But if Ortega doesn’t have the official invite yet, it must be because people in his government are keeping it from him,” Rogers wrote.

Prompted by a phone call from the Dispatch, Costa Rican Foreign Ministry spokesman Miguel Díaz on Friday issued a statement confirming Ortega had been invited via a formal letter sent to the Nicaraguan Embassy in Costa Rica on April 3. Díaz attached a copy of the letter, which was signed as received by Nicaraguan official Douglas Espinoza the same day.

“The government of Costa Rica ratified today [Friday] that since April 3 it had distributed invitations to the heads of state of [SICA] to attend the Summit in San José with the President of the United States, Barack Obama,” the Costa Rican ministry statement said.

Relations between Ortega and his Costa Rican colleague, President Laura Chinchilla, are tense because of an ongoing border spat near the Caribbean coast that started in October 2010.

Chinchilla currently presides over SICA and will host the May 3-4 meeting with Obama and other Central American presidents.

On Friday, Ortega did an about face, announcing through his wife and presidential spokeswoman, Rosario Murillo, that he would in fact attend the summit.

“The President of the Republic, Daniel Ortega Saavedra, confirmed his participation in the Summit of the Central American Integration System with the President of the United States, Barack Obama, after receiving at noon yesterday [Thursday] a formal invitation from Costa Rica,” Nicaragua’s El 19 Digital reported on Friday.

This story was updated at 3:10 p.m. on Friday. AFP contributed.

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