Remarks by U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua, Laura F. Dogu
Managua, October 3, 2016
During the first year since my arrival in Nicaragua, I have had the pleasure of knowing a good part of this beautiful country and many of its talented compatriots. Through our programs, I have had the opportunity to work with people from all sectors – including members of civil society and the private sector; – politicians; indigenous communities; human rights activists; people with different abilities and many more.
I have traveled to Bluefields and Puerto Cabezas, to Matagalpa and Estelí, to León and Granada . I have visited its beaches, mountains, coffee plantations, volcanoes, markets, neighborhoods and schools. My respect and affection for Nicaragua and Nicaraguans is growing day by day. The relationship between the people of the United States and the people of Nicaragua remains strong.
Last year, the US government provided Nicaragua with more than 40 million dollars in a wide range of programs to help its citizens. This financing supports a more prosperous, secure and democratic Nicaragua. It includes support for entrepreneurs and producers, the strengthening of the education system, and food support to help lift people out of poverty and provide opportunities for the future. It also includes funds to strengthen health systems, for disaster preparedness, and for efforts aimed at fighting drug trafficking in order to keep Nicaragua safe and prepared to respond to emergencies. It also includes programs to teach young people leadership skills and to protect human rights.
This support does not include donations from private citizens and US NGOs. Every year, US citizens donate millions of dollars in goods to Nicaraguans. Special equipment for firefighters, fire trucks, ambulances, special lenses, medical brigades and much more. This week, the Wisconsin / Nicaragua Partners organization will deliver a donation worth more than $100,000 in equipment and medical supplies, as well as equipment for vocational training. This is just a small example of the amount of donations that American citizens provide each year to the people of Nicaragua. It is a continuous demonstration of the commitment that the people of the United States have with the Nicaraguan people.
During the last two weeks that I was in Washington, visiting with my family, I met with different officials of the United States government-with members of Congress, officials of the State Department, and other offices and government agencies. Nicaragua is on the radar and many people are interested in Nicaragua. I told them about the work we are doing together with the people of Nicaragua. I told them about the good Nicaraguan workers and entrepreneurs that I have known that they want a better life for themselves and their children. We talked about the unique agreement that exists between the government, the private sector, and workers to promote economic growth policies. We talked about bilateral collaboration aimed at security issues with emphasis on the fight against drug trafficking and the flow of migrants. I also explained to them about the elections in Nicaragua.
Many in Washington are concerned about the state of democracy in Nicaragua. I met with Democrats and Republicans in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. While some have been aware of Nicaragua for many years, there are others that have not. I was surprised to learn of the deep knowledge they have about Nicaragua and what is happening here.
Many of them have never held meetings with Nicaraguans, but they are well informed and showed their concern.
The House of Representatives of the United States was so concerned about the situation in Nicaragua that it unanimously approved the NICA Act, which would instruct President Obama and his government agencies to oppose any loan that the international financial institutions provide for the benefit of the government of Nicaragua, unless the government takes effective measures to strengthen democracy. Many of the funds available from international financial institutions come from taxes paid by Americans and members of Congress expressed that they do not believe that these funds should benefit a government that does not listen to its citizens.
The NICA Act, if it becomes law, would require the State Department to report on corruption and human rights violations in Nicaragua and for the Treasury Department to report on the effectiveness of the use of funds in the country. I understand that many in Nicaragua are on the lookout for whether the NICA Act will be approved in the Senate and if President Obama will sign it into law. The Executive Branch-including the White House, the State Department, and the Embassy-has repeatedly expressed its concern about the state of democracy in Nicaragua.
However, due to the separation of powers, between the Congress and the President — the State Department cannot comment on laws that have not yet been approved. We have heard the position of many Nicaraguans on this bill. I want to make some clarifications: the NICA Act, in its current form, does not include provisions related to CAFTA, although during a recent hearing on Nicaragua in the congress many congressional representatives questioned whether Nicaragua should continue to benefit. The Act, as currently drafted, refers to loans from international financial organizations, and it is not, as has been reported in several places, an economic embargo.
I have returned to Nicaragua with renewed energy to continue our commitment to the people of Nicaragua. We will continue the work we do here to promote a prosperous, secure and democratic Nicaragua.
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