From EL FARO ENGLISH: Nicaragua’s Ortega finds complicity with Central American presidents
Nicaragua, in brief: Central American leaders are averting their gaze from the Nicaraguan Ortega-Murillo regime, aware that fighting with Central America’s most entrenched autocracy would give more air to critics of corruption and human rights abuses. man in their own country. But complicity is also a question of money: in case of distress, there is enough money to go around the development bank of Central America.
In Tegucigalpa on Tuesday, President Xiomara Castro, who presents herself as a small-D democrat who freed her country from “12 years of narco-dictatorship”, presented Nicaraguan despot Daniel Ortega with a plaque for his “support for democracy”. and the resistance of the Honduran people against the 2009 coup.”
You read correctly : “support for democracy.” It’s a curious way to describe a Sandinista government that currently holds more than 180 political prisonerswhich won elections last year by overthrowing two opposition parties and arrest seven candidatesand whose Congress this very week canceled the legal status of 200 civil society organizations.
That’s 800 organizations canceled by the Sandinista legislature this year, affecting university student and faculty associations, anti-poverty and charity groups, and even indigenous collectives. This week a group of Catholic nuns running a shelter for needy children and a retirement home for the elderly was expelled from the country.
But perhaps even more indicative of the political winds in Central America than Castro’s tribute to Ortega was an OAS vote to condemn the Nicaraguan government’s expropriation of its local facilities in April. Honduras abstained.just like El Salvador.
President Nayib Bukele, who called Ortega an ‘illegitimate’ dictator before taking office in 2019, now joins him in denouncing the OAS as an imperial accomplice. Bukele’s ambassador to the OAS justified the abstention by saying that the international body works “in favor of one and against the other, distorting and eroding peaceful coexistence”.
Central American leaders are finding common cause in playing the national sovereignty card to fend off international criticism of corruption, human rights abuses and authoritarianism. At the Summit of the Americas in early June, the foreign ministers of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras everyone underlined it in their remarks. Nicaragua was not invited.
But Ortega doesn’t need to play on Joe Biden’s court. The country is preparing to take the helm of the Central American Integration System (SICA), a key forum for setting regional political agendas related to health, education, culture, environmental issues, monetary policy, trade and commerce. It is Nicaragua’s turn to choose the Secretary General of SICA for the 2021-2025 term, a decision that requires the political support of the rest of the region.
Last year, SICA unanimously rejected Ortega’s shortlist of candidates, claiming they “lack knowledge” and were “too close to the regime”. But they seem to have made peace. Costa Rica’s foreign minister says Ortega’s shortlist now has backing from all Central American governments— even that of Guatemala, which mocks critics like “chairs», a pejorative for the communists.
Complicity with the regime is not only political; it is also financial. Ortega did not find money in Moscow – he is, after all, a close ally of Putin in the midst of the invasion of Ukraine, but in Tegucigalpa, headquarters of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI).
On Tuesday, the Assembly approved a CABEI loan worth $350 million to highway maintenance. The development bank, founded by five Central American states in 1960, has invested $1.6 billion in ongoing projects on health, poverty and climate change.
CABEI has become a lifeline for governments on good terms with the United States. The bank told Jimmy Alvarado of El Faro that he was now in the final stages of issuing a $220 million loan to the Bukele administration – money that, combined with an additional $100 million from the World Bank, will help the administration avoid default this year.
From May to December 2021, as Bukele’s negotiations with the IMF for a debt restructuring collapsed amid disagreements over democratic backsliding and the Bitcoin law, the Central American bank lent the country a hefty $1.6 billion.
It should be noted that the octogenarian dictator of Nicaragua, who is not on Twitter, and the strongman of TikTok in El Salvador have found a common bunker of refuge.
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