Powers doesn’t mince words in first appearance

AMCHAM president thinks this could be beginning of a new phase in U.S.-Nicaragua relations

In her first appearance as U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua, Phyllis Powers told the Nicaraguan-American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) this afternoon that it will be difficult for Nicaragua to get another extension on its property and transparency waivers and that U.S. remains very concerned about the state of the country’s representative democracy.

“The ambassador was diplomatic, but direct and strong in her message,” says Yalí Molina, president of AMCHAM, following today’s luncheon with the new U.S. ambassador. “I think everyone was a little surprised with how direct she was. I think this is going to be the beginning in new phase in the relationship between the U.S. and Nicaragua.”

Molina says Powers’ message to AMCHAM was—in no uncertain terms—that the U.S. government is very concerned with issues of transparency and democracy in Nicaragua, as well as a new series of property confiscations against U.S. interests. The AMCHAM president said the impression that everyone got after listening to Ambassador Powers was that “the U.S. is not satisfied with Nicaragua’s compliance on the waiver issues” and that they probably won’t be extended beyond July.

“We’ve been warning about how catastrophic this could be for a while,” Molina said. “But the ambassador was clear that the U.S.’ support for the people of Nicaragua will continue.”

According to U.S. law, the U.S. government is not allowed to provide bilateral aid to any country whose government has confiscated properties belonging to U.S. citizens. In the case of Nicaragua, the U.S. government circumvents the restriction by extending an annual property waiver every July. The waiver allows Nicaragua to continue receiving U.S. aid as long as it continues to make progress resolving the pile of pending U.S. citizen property claims from the 1980s.

Over the past 18 years of the waiver program, the Nicaraguan government has resolved some 2,740 U.S. property claims by indemnifying the rightful owners, spending hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. With clear progress being made, the U.S.’ extension of the property waiver became a rubberstamp approval from Washington every year.

This year, however, there is serious concern—for the first time in more than a decade—that the U.S. might actually cancel the waiver.  Gonzalo Gallegos, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Caribbean and Central American Affairs, said in an interview March 31 with Confidencial that the U.S. Embassy has registered 10 new confiscations of U.S. citizens’ properties in the past year alone.

In addition, the Sandinista government and the U.S. government don’t seem to agree on how many old confiscation cases remain pending. The U.S. government claims there are 383 old cases pending while the Sandinista government says there are only 178.

If the waiver gets canceled, it would put Nicaragua in a very difficult position. The U.S. would immediately cut-off all bilateral aid to Nicaragua and would also pressure the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank to deny future loans to Nicaragua, potentially damaging the country’s otherwise solid working relations with international-lending institutions.

The U.S. government has not yet announced its official position on the waiver issue, but the messages from Powers and Gallegos seem to be preparing Nicaragua for bad news.

  • Mela Pellas

    If the current pincko US Govt. talks about no more waivers for the sandinistas, can you imagine what will happrn when we elect Mr. Romney to the White House?

  • GringoLoco

    Life must be rough in El Carmen these days. The Hugorilla us dying. The Castro bros are dead men walking. Qadaffi is gone. Arafat dead. The chubby little freak in North Korea is too poor to be of use (maybe a missile or three?). And Imawhackjob in Tehran is finding out if you play with the bull, you get the horns.

    And now those rotten yanqui imperialists, enemies of mankind, want to wake up and pay attention to their patio. Again.

    Ortega has no where to go. He’s sucked so much out of all the Alba-bisne that he can — much of which is actually debt on future generations of Nicas — so much for so-called “Alba solidarity”. Those monies may actually have to go to pay for some of bread and circus “social programs” their so fond of propagandizing at every turn.

    He could always play the China card and dump Taiwan. There goes Plaza Inter and the Crowne Plaza!

    • http://nope Romney

      Negativity and complete ignorance. Now that’s my boy. You hired!

      • Alberto Ralla Merrio

        you should be reading some Ruben Dario and find out what he means by ” The Bull with Silver teeth”. ohh where did the coins go!

  • Carla Chamorro

    El argumento de que esto afecta unicamente al pueblo de Nicaragua tiene mucho de verdad aunque debemos comprender que para muchos (incluyendo a los USA) perjudica mas al pueblo un camino no democratico con instituciones no solidas y politicamente independientes y ha sido a travez de estas actitudes que se ha desembocado en conflictos armados verdaderamente serios y que son los que se desean evitar. Aun hay tiempo de rectificar y salir avante, de nosotros dependera.

  • Ken

    I suspect that the waiver issue is a smoke screen. The right wing in the US simply wants to put the screws to Ortega, and won’t be happy until it has its own puppet once again installed as president. Perhaps there are a few legitimate property confiscation cases lingering, but this was mean US policy to begin with (essentially rewarding those who divested in Nicaragua) and surely all the easy cases are resolved. I doubt the remaining cases have much if any merit. Powers though is to be commended for speaking forthrightly about this and especially transparency concerns. She is after all simply the messenger–it’s not necessarily her policy she is presenting–so it’s good that she presents the message clearly.

    • VICTOR

      YOU MUST BE IN ANOTHER PLANET. WE ARE LIVING THE INVASION OF THE NICARAGUAN ARMY IN OUR LAND NEXT TO PUERTO SANDINO, AS WELL AS , THE INVASIONS FRON THE ALCALDIA OF NAGAROTE (BEACH AND FLAT LANDS), MTI (ROADS), ALBA (FUTURE LAND GRAVERS), MEMBERS OF THE SUPRIME JUSTICE (BEACH FRONT PROPERTY), ALL THESE IN ONE PROPERTY IN THE PAST 7 YEARS. WE ARE STILL FIGHTING AND WE WELCOME THE US GOV´T. CANCELLING THE WAIVER AND THEIR VISA AND BANKS ACCOUNTS TOO.

  • http://nope Momo Ali

    King USA has the right to make their own decision and strategies. What is again not acceptable is that the US is using financial mechanism such as the World bank and IADB to force their ideology. It clearly shows that the World bank and IADB is a neo-colonial tool that serves US interests. They ought to be neutral. It’s subtle.

    I do agree that democracy needs to be respected but not when King USA applies double standards – example with Saudi Arabia. It looses it’s credibility.

  • Randy

    Ken – please understand what you are writing about. First, nica is not democratic in elections – from the article: “concerned with issues of transparency and democracy in Nicaragua, as well as a new series of property confiscations against U.S. interests” Secondly, the Ambassador is a selected individual by the President who is a left-wing socialist.

    Momo – Since the US is a major contributor to the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank and has a seat at the table, it would be foolish to not present a case aligned to the countries beliefs. You’re basically asking the US to place money on the table and look away while someone takes it without questioning. Nonsense.

    Not saying that everything the US does is right, and as a citizen there’s a lot of foreign policy both the Right and Left and errored on, but the comments on policy are not well thought out.

    • http://nope Allen

      If the US is the biggest contributor to these lending institutions (WB & IADB) then it should only base it’s decisions on the track record of repaying these loans. Nicaragua, in the eyes of both those institutions are re-paying and managing their economies in a very sound manner – read their official reports on-line. So there is no case for these banks not give loans. Randy, what you are saying is that the USA has the right to command the WB and IADB to stop giving loans to Nicaragua based on a political agenda. If it were based on the World bank and IADB then they would give Nicaragua the loans based on financial indicators. Nicaragua is credit worthy. I would agree in case the US “gives” bilateral loans but in this case it is nonsense.

  • http://nope Miss Sunshine

    It’s always better to go to the source. Second hand news takes thing out of context. http://nicaragua.usembassy.gov/sp_120511_amcham.html

  • Ben

    Thank you, Miss Sunshine for illuminating a few truths for us. Great source & right on target.

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