Nicaragua to US: Gimme, Gimme
Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega is back in the news.
The first item has to do with 1,051 SA-7 air defense missiles left over from the Sandinista-Contra war of the 1980s. The National Assembly had blocked former President Enrique Bolaños from making good on his promise to destroy the missiles. Ortega insists the missiles are still fire-ready after nearly thirty years, but will reopen talks with the US to destroy 651 of them in exchange for US medical supplies, should the U.S. create the proper "conditions.'" Nicaragua will "keep 400 missiles for our aerial defense.” said Ortega.
The second item has to do with last November's municipal elections. Watchdog group Ethics and Transparency found electoral fraud and violations to 10 articles of Nicaragua's Electoral Code, while the ruling party claimed "an overwhelming victory." Riding in this dispute is $62 million in frozen U.S. development aid:
Business leaders worry that if Washington decides to permanently cut its aid under the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), other European countries and international lending institutions would follow, spelling disaster for the hemisphere's second-poorest nation behind Haiti.The Ortega government says the subject is not open to discussion, "not even with historians," insisting that Nicaraguans and the world "forget about the elections," and accuses the US of "taking bread from the poor."
The MCC, which has already contracted more than $90 million of the original $175 million compact awarded to Nicaragua in 2005, will meet in June to make its final decision on the remaining $62 million yet to be allocated for infrastructure and landtitling programs.
The third item was clearly meant for domestic consumption but made it to the international news, via Venezuela's Noticias 24 (my translation): Ortega calls the US "cheapskate" over aid to fight drug trafficking: During a speech for 254 officers of the National Police, Ortega stated that last year the National Police had seized $370 millions' worth of drugs originating from Colombia and destined to the US, plus 12,000 weapons. Remarking that the US only provides Nicaragua with $1.4 million to fight drug traffic, Ortega requested that the US send Nicaragua half of the $370 million.
But that's not what has Nicaragua's neighbors worried: Ortega announced that the country is open to all and any tourist visitors from any country, without requiring visas. Costa Rica is concerned that international trafficking groups can now move people to other countries like Costa Rica and the US. Inside Costa Rica mentions Chinese and Russians, but readers of this blog know that Iranians are already heading to Nicaragua.