(posted June 11, 12:00 p.m.)- General Alvaro Baltodano, President Daniel Ortega’s delegate for foreign investment, presented a convincing case in Washington this morning for why the United States should continue to work with Nicaragua to achieve sustainable social and economic development, rather than punish the country by cutting aid.
Though Gen. Baltodano did not specifically mention the issue of the waivers during his presentation at this morning’s forum on Nicaragua’s economy and investment opportunities, his message to the U.S. government was clear: The Nicaraguan economy is on the right track, don’t derail us.
Speaking at the forum organized by the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America (AACCLA), Baltodano stressed that Nicaragua’s levels of foreign-direct investment and exports have grown faster than any other Central American country, “thanks to CAFTA.”
“Between 2006-2011, our exports have grown 121%. And overall, commerce has grown 67% under CAFTA,” Baltodano said, referring to the U.S.-Central American Free-Trade Agreement that entered into force in 2006.
The retired general, who participated in today’s public-private forum in representation of President Ortega and investment-promotion agency ProNicaragua, highlighted advances in Nicaragua’s renewable energy efforts, rural electrification (up 21% over the past five years), social peace, poverty reduction, and macro-economic stability.
Baltodano also addressed the issue of Venezuelan aid, which is considered the main rub that could prevent the U.S. from extending its fiscal-transparency waiver this year. He said Venezuelan cooperation has contributed $1.5 billion to Nicaragua’s fight against poverty in the form of immediate relief.
“In the short term, this cooperation has given us an answer to the basic needs of the population—a roof, access to health, and property titles,” he said. “But we think that investment and trade are the factors that are going to push Nicaragua’s sustainable development in the long term.”
When asked about the possibility of diminishing Venezuelan aid and how that would affect Nicaragua’s future prospects, Baltodano said Nicaragua needs to attract more investment and develop more commerce so that the country can continue to grow “due to our own efforts.” Baltodano also mentioned Nicaragua’s canal plans as a possibility for attracting more investment, jobs and commerce.
Nicaragua needs Bolivar and Uncle Sam
Baltodano made clear that Nicaragua’s plans for continued economic growth and development is not based on the fantasy of an endless wellspring of Venezuela aid, rather real economic growth based on production, investment and trade. And when it comes to trade and job creation, the U.S. is still Nicaragua’s most important partner, Baltodano said. He noted that CAFTA has created more than 35,000 factory jobs just in the past year alone.
“We grew in the middle of a crisis as a result of CAFTA and my government’s willingness to take advantage of the trade agreement,” Baltodano said. “We still have the same desire to keep growing.”
Baltodano said he will not be meeting with any representatives of the U.S. government while in Washington today and tomorrow. Instead, his message to the U.S. government was delivered during his PowerPoint presentation at today’s investment forum. And if anyone from the U.S. government was listening, they would have heard it loud and clear.
“The U.S. plays a key role; it is the main partner for many countries so we should work together to unite and push initiatives that move us towards prosperity,” Baltodano said.
In other words, Nicaragua needs both Venezuela and the United States—two different countries that are fulfilling different needs in the country’s short and long-term economic growth and stability. And that’s Nicaragua’s simple reality, behind its complicated politics.