San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

U.S. Congress looks to condition loans to Nicaragua on political changes

Nicaraguan politicians and economists expressed concern Thursday after the United States House of Representatives passed a bill calling for economic sanctions against Daniel Ortega’s government for restricting free elections and curbing political freedoms.

The Nicaragua Investment Conditionality Act (NICA) was passed unanimously Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Senate would have to pass the bill and President Barack Obama would have to sign it in order for the bill to become law.

According to Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the bill’s main sponsor, the law looks to “stop Ortega from accessing international funds until he adopts reforms that promote democracy, strengthen the rule of law, respect human rights, and celebrate free, fair, and transparent elections supervised by electoral observers.”

“It’s unfortunate, but this is the result of the misrule under Ortega, who has been building a dictatorship disrespecting all human rights,” Violeta Granera, an ex-candidate for the vice presidency told AFP.

On the wrong track

The main Nicaraguan opposition candidate was banned earlier this year from the Nov. 6 general elections, in which President Ortega of the Sandinista National Liberation Party (FSLN) is seeking a third consecutive term. Opposition leaders have called this year’s elections an “electoral farce.”

The opposition has said it will continue to try and undermine Ortega’s reelection plans by intensifying calls for abstention and protest, hoping to force a new election with international observation and an impartial electoral tribune. They also made an effort this week to reorganize under an expanded coalition.

Nicaragua receives $250 million in loans annually from entities like the World Bank and the International Development Bank. The NICA bill making its way through the U.S. Congress is aimed at making it more difficult for Nicaragua to receive such loans on a long-term basis by leveraging U.S. influence on international lenders.

Ortega’s government responded Thursday in a news release to the U.S. House’s vote on the bill, saying it was a “violation of international law and the United Nations charter.”

Nicaraguan opposition reorganizes

On Thursday, Nicaraguan opposition parties announced the creation of a new “Broad Front” party that brings together the country’s conservative parties with Sandinista dissidents and other opponents of Ortega’s administration.

Leaders hope the new alliance will revive the opposition’s chances of defeating Ortega.

“The goal is to unify all the government opponents to speak out against the wrongs of this electoral process,” said Fabio Gadea, the 2011 presidential candidate for the Independent Liberal Party (PLI).

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Ken Morris

Although I agree that the increasingly egregious authoritarian turn of the Ortega-Murillo administration is cause for concern in the US and elsewhere, I can’t agree with the US attempting to thwart loans and the like to Nicaragua from non-US and international bodies.

The US has no authority to do this, and if/when it tries, it will just correctly be regarded as a global bully and justfiably spawn more anti-US sentiment not only in Nicaragua but also globally.

The US has also done this before to Nicaragua during the 1980s, and it didn’t work. The only effect it had was to cripple Nicaragua’s economy and increase poverty. Meanwhile, if you notice, the politician the US hoped to oust by destroying Nicaragua’s economy is still in power 30 years later.

More broadly, it is only through economic development that Nicaragua will be able to throw off the yoke of authoritarianism, which makes it counterproductive for anyone concerned about Ortega and Murillo’s growing authoritarianism to attempt to thwart economic development in there.

Don’t kid yourself, Nicaragua has been ruled by authoritarians (sometimes behind the scenes) for longer than any of us have been alive. The Ortega-Murillo regime may or may not be worse than others, but all the regimes have been cut from similar cloth. Economic development is the precondition for ending this parade of dictators and scoundrels, making it folly for the US to thwart economic development.

If the US wants to cut or reallocate the aid it provides to Nicaragua, that is fine. However, the dirty little secret is that there is no US aid that supports the Ortega-Murillo governent to cut or reallocate. For years US aid has primarily been allocated to the opponents of Ortega and Murillo, usually by calling it aid to civil society groups that just happen to be fierce critics of the existing government.

In reality, short of sending in troops (which it has tried before), the US doesn’t have many options when it comes to countering the growing authoritarianism of Ortega and Murillo. It can pass stern resolutions condemning the regime, take symbolic steps like walking out on UN speeches, and so on, but that’s really about it.

Oh, except for being a role model. Many Nicas actually like and admire the US, and in the long run, that city on a hill stuff counts for a lot. But if the US seeks to harm Nicaragua’s economy by bullying tactics, it won’t be a role model that any Nica wants to emulate. Instead, it will squander its moral authority and once again reveal itself to be “the enemy of humanity,” as Nicaragua’s national anthem says that the Yanquis are.

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Jim Obert

What is your opinion of the dictatorship in Honduras??? No sanctions, but it is US backed. I posted a couple of articles in my post on this. Just curious on what your thoughts are. Same thing Ortega is accused of, but crickets from the US and other right wing media.

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Tony Campanela

Sancionen al dictador esperen las elecciones de Noviembre. Castiguen a este violador.. de mujeres.Ni un pennie para este borracho.

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The bill states “The President shall instruct the United States Executive Director at each international financial institution to use the voice, vote, and influence of the United States to oppose any loan for the benefit of the Government of Nicaragua, other than to address basic human needs or promote democracy.” I have no problem with the USA expressing its right to vote against loans to a dictator government. Meanwhile, the bill also states “The Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) should prioritize foreign assistance to the people of Nicaragua to assist civil society in democracy and governance programs, including human rights documentation.” In 2015, USAID gave various Nicaraguan institutions over $14 million and I am sure USAID contributions to Nicaragua have likely increased since then.

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Jim Obert

I do not believe the numbers went up. Most of this aid went to the US backed opposition. Just curious on what you think of the situation in Honduras, and the dictatorship there that is doing the same thing to ensure power. And what the US is wanting to cut is loans, not aid. Money that has to be repaid. I think part of this is the US has to cut somewhere to pay for the increased military aid being given to Israel and Saudi Arabia, with the former arming Honduras to the teeth based on an agreement announced between Honduras and Israel.

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Gordana Govic

Obama needs to veto this bill. The USA has no business interfering or opposing international funds that are going to Nicaragua. Clean up your own house USA before dictating rules on other countries.

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