Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for coming here today for my first press conference in Nicaragua. It is an honor and a pleasure to be here. I hope to have frequent and open communication with the media during my tenure as ambassador, and I look forward to seeing you often.
My husband and I arrived in Managua last week and have really enjoyed our first week sampling Nicaraguan coffee and food and having the opportunity to do some shopping. My sons will arrive for a visit in a few weeks during a university break and I am looking forward sharing these experiences with them.
I have just returned from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where I presented my credentials to Foreign Minister Santos. I am now ready to get to work!
I’d like to describe for you what that work is and my priorities as the Ambassador of the United States to Nicaragua.
President Obama has noted countries are not served by a rigid policy rooted in events that took place before most of us were born. He stressed, “Where we can advance shared interests, we will… where we disagree, we will raise those differences directly.”
In this vein, it is time for the United States – Nicaragua relationship
to continue to mature. Today the United States and Nicaragua have a more developed relationship based on a dialogue of mutual respect and based on our respect for the sovereignty of Nicaragua.
The bilateral relationship is filled with both shared interests and areas of disagreement. The United States and this Embassy will actively cooperate on areas of mutual national interest, while continuing respectful dialogue and engagement to encourage progress in other areas.
The United States supports a prosperous, secure, and democratic future for Nicaragua and I believe these are the same things the Nicaraguan people want for their own country. It is up to the people of Nicaragua to choose their own destiny as a people and nation and the United States welcomes the opportunity to support their efforts.
I am committed to collaborate with Nicaraguans who are working to improve the economic prospects of all Nicaraguans. Secretary Kerry said, “… we have to work together to eliminate extreme poverty through inclusive economic growth – because we know that no society can thrive when entire segments of the population are excluded from opportunity.” Nicaraguan exports to the United States have increased 160 percent since the implementation of CAFTA, creating new jobs and opportunities for Nicaraguans everywhere. We also work closely with Nicaraguan farmers to improve their productivity and their livelihoods. Together with local organizations, we have trained Nicaraguan farmers in animal and plant health, improved farming efficiency, and strategies to be more financially sustainable. I am a strong believer in facilitating legitimate travel, so we will continue to strive to keep wait times for a visa appointment low and provide quality and efficient service to all travelers to the United States. As I begin work I will be exploring new areas for possible cooperation to improve economic opportunities for all Nicaraguans.
I will continue to work with Nicaraguans who assist youth. Strong, innovative, and well-prepared youth are the key to a successful future – not just their own future, but for the future of society as a whole. To ensure inclusiveness in education, we continue to focus on girls from underserved and marginalized ethnic and linguistic minority populations to learn critical reading skills.
I will also continue to collaborate with Nicaraguans who promote opportunities for women, since we know this is key to the economic prosperity of families and nations. The United States supports Nicaraguan organizations to provide training programs and access to business networks for women entrepreneurs.
I will also continue to emphasize the importance of promoting women’s participation in civil society so they can develop their communities and improve their quality of life. I will continue to work with the relevant Nicaraguan entities to make Nicaragua safer. We know that good law enforcement here means better security everywhere. That is why we work closely with the police to stop international trafficking of people, drugs, and arms. We also work with local and national law enforcement authorities to strengthen citizen security, decrease violence, and create alternatives for at-risk youth. President Obama’s Central America strategy focuses on improving security in the region and Nicaragua is a key country that has successfully kept poor security from challenging the daily lives of citizens.
The people of Nicaragua and the United States also have mutual interests in democracy, although there remain key areas of disagreement
that we must address in an open and respectful manner.
The United States and other countries have expressed concern over the state of democracy in Nicaragua. Around the world the United States has spoken out strongly on the importance of the people of every country having the right to select their government and leaders in an open and transparent manner. The United States is committed to the principle that governments should reflect the will of the people and protect basic rights. All people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just U.S. ideas, they are universal human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.
I will be a strong proponent for these democratic values and look forward to engaging with political leaders across the spectrum, the business community, and civil society to uphold them.
A Nicaragua in which human rights, democracy, and a vibrant civil society flourish is in the best interests of the people of the United States,
and in the best interests of all Nicaraguans.
It would also represent the surest path to attracting direct foreign investment and tackling endemic poverty. Investors need to feel confident that legal contracts are enforceable, that they are competing on a level playing field, and that there are enough people with the education and required skills before they will commit.
Finally and most importantly, our primary responsibility at every U.S. embassy is to ensure the safety and security of U.S. citizens and this will be at the top of my priority list.
Many U.S. citizens are proud to call themselves Nicaraguan-American and increasing numbers of tourists from the United States are visiting the beautiful beaches, historic sites, and green spaces of Nicaragua, and doing business here.
In closing, there are many opportunities ahead. I am very pleased to have arrived in Nicaragua, and I am committed to building on and expanding our relationship based on mutual respect and shared interests. I have received a very warm welcome from the people of Nicaragua and look forward to working together in the next few years.