US Ambassador: Biz leaders have power to change Nicaragua

U.S. Ambassador Phyllis Powers is calling on Nicaraguan business leaders to not shirk from their responsibilities of building a free, inclusive, democratic and prosperous society. History will judge the actions of those who are in positions to promote change and determine whether or not “we fulfilled our responsibilities” and responded to the challenges during the times in which we lived, the ambassador said.

“The coordinated influence that exists in this room really has the power to change Nicaragua,” Ambassador Powers told an assembly of business leaders gathered for a Wednesday afternoon luncheon hosted by the Nicaraguan-American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM). “I urge you to continue to increase the work that you are doing in this direction.”

The U.S. ambassador said that economic growth must go hand-in-hand with democracy, and not be given priority over democratic institutionalism.

“When President Obama spoke in San José about the strengthening the economy, he spoke of institutions, of democracy, human rights and dignity,” Powers told the group. “As leaders of your community, you have a special responsibility to help with the development of these institutions to ensure a strong democracy and to work to promote human rights with dignity.”

US Ambassador Powers (photo/ Tim Rogers)

Powers reminded the group that the daily decisions they make as business leaders, employers and investors, “affect the lives of thousands of people and help to establish standards in Nicaragua.”

“In fact, I would venture to say that the decisions you make have more influence in the lives of Nicaraguans than those made by government,” Powers said. “So whether you believe it or not, you are already involved in political life; you are forming the future of Nicaragua.”

In what came across as Ambassador Powers’ most politically charged speech to date after one year at her post in Nicaragua, the U.S. envoy said responsibility comes with power. Though the ambassador noted several examples she has seen of corporate social responsibility and educational initiatives promoted by AMCHAM businesses, she stressed that more needs to be done.

“Those who have the most influence are those who are obligated to act,” Powers told the group. “We all have the privilege of being in a position of influence. It could be that we all arrived here on different paths, but the result is the same because we all have the opportunity to truly affect the lives of others through our actions. And if we don’t take advantage of this opportunity, we will be judged by history for our failures.”

Powers’ speech, delivered with her soft yet deceptively direct style, appeared to have found its mark among a Nicaraguan business class that has been criticized by civil society for accommodating itself to the current government. Following her speech, there was an opportunity for questions or comments from the business leaders. Not a single hand went up. The silence from the Nicaraguan business sector marks a dramatic departure from past AMCHAM events when business leaders lined up to make comments or ask questions of previous U.S. ambassadors.

Powers’ message apparently came through loud and clear.

“She was giving us a warning,” opposition politician and former presidential candidate Eduardo Montealegre told The Nicaragua Dispatch. “If you guys continue to get too comfortable, sooner or later (the government) will put you under the grinding wheel.”


  • John Perry

    I wonder what the reaction would be if the Nicaraguan Ambassador in Washington called on US business leaders to strengthen democracy (e.g. stop making huge corporate donations to presidential election campaigns) and improve human rights (e.g. close Guantanamo and stop extra-judicial killings in other countries)? Also, I wonder if the US Ambassador to Honduras makes similar speaches there – where arguably democracy and human rights are at far more risk than in Nicaragua?

    • ternot macrenato

      Point well taken John. However, just because a parent smokes or drinks, it doesn’t mean he/she shouldn’t admonish her children about the harmful consecuences of either addiction. It’s also a historical fact that the Somoza dynasty fell when the business community had enough. In El Salvador the private sector did not support the insurgency and the left did not come to power.

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  • Nelson

    The intromission continue without hesitation, when government voices raise to protest is called “tyranny in the hand of a dictatorship”

    I wonder why this lady doesn’t stick to the role as she is supposed to be, when will be the day these US diplomats and “non profit organisations” control their instincts to rule other countries.

    Ecuador and Bolivia has taken the correct actions by expelling out of the country organisations with constant negative critics that doesn’t contribute to the well being of the country.

    U.S. Ambassador Phyllis Powers is following the foot prints from her predecessor Callaghan and one of these days she’ll get the answer needed which is to “stick to her own underwear” and leave the so called US democracy to her own confinements and allow Nicaragua to practice her own democracy as accepted by the general population who elected the present government.

  • Mario Borges

    This lady should sanctioned and warned!

    This is a real disgraced for a US diplomat to intervene in the local democracy, intending to impose her own interpretation of democracy, inciting local business leaders…who is she ?
    Who give her the power to critic Nicaraguan’s internal affairs, shame on her!

    The pattern of all US diplomats appears to be in conjunction with one main objective, to destabilise by any mean possible any government that is not in obedience with US foreign policies as masters ruling the world.

    I love americans but I hate domination, imperialism and hegemonic power…I hate the american government!

    • Elizabeth

      I am an American, I have lived in several countries. I believe that the American Government should keep their nose out of the governments of other countries. The American government needs to take a hard look at the way they conduct business here in the US. Small private owned business dont stand a chance, our government forgets that our country was founded on the ability of families to own and operate a business to feed their families. Large business and government interveintion is destroying the American dream. But who keep the politics in business, those large companies who contribute to political parties in Washington DC. It’s all about POWER!!!

  • Ken

    I dunno, with the exception of the spin Montealegre’s concluding comment give it, the Powers speech strikes me as a good one. I don’t see it as meddlesome interference of the sort that other US ambassador’s have been guilty of, or even a veiled or not-so-veiled critique of the current administration. It sounds to me like a strong speech on civic responsibility, and that’s good. I’d welcome a foreign ambassador to the US giving the same speech there.

    • Mario Borges

      What a naive conclusion…like so many miss-informed judging by the influence of CNN and Fox news.

      When this lady takes the liberty to state “So whether you believe it or not, you are already involved in political life; you are forming the future of Nicaragua.”
      This is a political statement and it doesn’t belong to a foreign ambassador to dictate policies in this country to the government nor to a group of local business leaders…in my language this is a clear intervention, camouflage by carefully chosen words if you will, but it is intervention!

  • Mario Borges

    Makes no sense to even remotely consider that a foreign ambassador can directs a speech in such a fashion in the US to a group of business investors.

    A foreign ambassador will never be allow to speak with critics on the “US democracy” on topics such as the violation of civil rights or the repression exercise by police force on the streets of Washington DC or other cities in the US, or the Guantanamo detainees held in jail with no trial for more than 15 years or the atrocities committed in Iraq etc etc.

    The ambassador who takes the initiative to speak in public in the US in these subjects, will be kick out of the country and disposed of his / her diplomatic immunity in a New York minute.

    I agree with the previous comment from Mario Borges, you are or present yourself as a naive person, perhaps with great intentions but far away from the reality of the politics and diplomatics affairs…best!

  • Mario Borges

    Representing her US government number one in the world in violations of human rights, she has no moral rights to speak about democracy.

    Her comments are subversive and instigators!

  • mark druce

    Do not believe a word she says. She is a liar. She has extensive ties and stock in Neo-liberalistic Global firms. The firms that are only interested in money, not their workers. Many U.S. firms which have led to the destruction of the American Public schools, the death of the Manufacturing sector, and the implementation of technology and outsourcing of jobs. All of which have eliminated over 50 million jobs in America.

    When she says firms must be socially responsibble, She is again lying
    Social responsibility in America is dead. The Republicans have cut welfare benefits by over 50% the last 7 years. They have done this by privatizing foodstamps, unemployment, Wic, mental health funding, state pension plans in most states. The Republicans want to privatize social security, medicare, student loans, the military, firemen and police nationwide. The firms getting the contracts are large corporate donors to their party (mostly corporations and millionaires).

    The state of Florida took $92 million dollars from the state virtual schools, and gave it to private virtural schools. Most of them controlled by the Bush Family. One should know that George’s father attended school with, took vacations in Palm Beach with, and supported anti-semetic agencies tied to McGraw-Hill and Pearso , (The oringinal Bush, Presley Bush, help fund Hilter at the bank were he was a director. The bank was the German-American Bank. George’s father was director of the CIA and when he first elected he used his power to make 95% of Preston Bush’s papers top secret hide his pro-Nazi views.

    Did you know that there is U.S. Vetrens Administration Hospital in Honduras that is and has and will be treating Contra Rebels who wanted to put Somoza back in power.

    American Corporations are making record profits and paying record salaries to executives that are 20 times the salaries of European and Aisian excutives. Instead of borrowing money to expand operations, the firms are borrowing the money to buy back stock, issue special dividends, and send operations overseas all on the back of their employees. The average American is only making 60% of what they made 8 years ago. The firms have not become more profitable by expanding operations, but rather by cutting jobs and benefits. 80% of all new profits are directly tied to labor cuts.

    America is not a democracy. It is a republic, specifically a Representative Republic. It’s key national leaders are elected by delegates who can vote for anybody, even if the voters say to do the opposite.

    George Bush had to pay his way out of Ivy League school. His grades were originally mostly D’s before his father donated money get him C’s.

    In NIcaragua, the bulk of the buisnesses and the foreign investors are doing exactly what U.S. frims are doing. Saying that they are here to help the workers and the economy. but they are lying.

    Why have 90% of all the builders in NIcaragua cut back on building affordable housing, and concentrated on building homes for NIcaraguan Rich and Foreigners moving to NIcaragua? It because they have become American. They no longer believe in Justice, Equality, and God.
    They only believe in making money no matter how many lives they destroy, and how much of the NIcaraguan environment they destroy. Money and greed are their Gods. Just like the American and Neo-Liberalistic firms.

    Any ambassador from American in a Foreign nation is there only to help the rich and U.S. business interests. Most of them are also the head of CIA operations in the nation.

    Do not trust one single word she speaks.

    • car

      “Why have 90% of all the builders in NIcaragua cut back on building affordable housing, and concentrated on building homes for NIcaraguan Rich and Foreigners moving to NIcaragua?”

      i dunno, maybe it’s because luxury construction nets them a helluva lot more money? and are businesses in business to make money?

      Justice, Equality and God are fantastic. But they don’t pay the bills.

      educate yourself a bit on low income housing in nicaragua. that which has been built, was built by the whoretega clan and their lackeys. the construction contracts were awarded to sandinistas. they’ve gotten fairly rich off of that “low income” housing.

  • gunner

    Don’t bother to write a letter to le madame ambassadora about a critical problem that involves a U.S. citizen -as in a jailed man close to death. She won’t answer.

  • http://no Damian

    There is a lot to learn from the USA – The good and the bad. Double standards are so often used in politics and it’s amazing people stay gullible. Governments and corporations have learned a great deal when it comes to human behaviour with the help of Sigmund Freud’s research.

    The media plays a crucial role in democracies. At this moment in time, the media is failing. They do not protect peoples interest any more but rather manufacture consent for the political class and capital/big business.

    I my opinion, NicaraguaDispatch only tells one side of the story. So it’s not only the US ambassador but also all the other tools such as media that need to be reminded what their job is supposed to be and what democracy really needs.

  • Név Hamis

    Damian , I agree with the first part of your statement, but to accuse Nicaragua Dispatch of manufacturing consent for the powerful political class makes me think you just stepped off a spaceship. In which case, let me be the first to welcome you to Nicaragua; it’s a hot but friendly place.
    You might be surprised to learn that Nicaragua is governed by the Sandinista Party—they are the powerful political and big business class in this country. And yes, as part of their company holdings they control many of their own media outlets that are in the business of manufacturing consent.
    Based on some of the articles I have read on this site, I don’t believe that Nicaragua Dispatch is part of the Sandinista media empire. But you’d have to ask them yourself.
    I do, however, believe that the rather heated commentaries I have read at the bottom of articles, where you find all sorts of arguments, criticism and conspiracy theories, is pretty clear evidence that this site is not the business of manufacturing consent—if they are, they’re certainly not doing a very good job of it because there is no consent to be found on these pages.

    • http://no Damian

      Nav, Thanks for sharing your thoughts as I did. Firstly, it is not an attack but instead feedback from a reader of the NicaDispatch. Secondly, I stepped off the spaceship almost a decade ago and landed in Nicaragua. Let me not talk about the 10h/day energy failures the country had to face. Can you imagine waiting for 10 hours for my reply. These days I complain that the power went off for 20 minutes.

      I do agree with you that the Nicaraguan government did not censor the media but rather started up their own communication channels and media outlets. Competition is a healthy economical principle indeed and the result is that he end user(s) have more options and choices. The NicaraguaDispatch also opened its doors during the return of the Sandinistas to power and are telling their story. In some way, we are all, intrinsically, manufacturing consent. The crucial details is to let everybody tell their story or give a platform where everybody can tell their side of the story. Having a comment section is nice but absolutely not the “evidence” you are talking about. The consent is found in the article (reading between lines, choice of wording and context) and not the comments or opinion section.

      I wonder what the outcome would be if one was to statistically show how many articles (not opinions and comments) are pro-government, contra-government or equally balanced? Science is a good way of measuring rather than my opinion vs your opinion. In data we trust.

  • Nicagringo

    The Ambassador and Mr. Montealegre are morons with good intentions. Nicaragua is more democratic, capitalistic and free than the US if one looks at these issues objectively. People should fear the US govt far more than the FSLN.

    Watch the lack of coverage of the Bradley Manning trial…or lack thereof in the US right now. Remember that George W. Bush would be tried for war crimes if he was President of any other nation. Remember that Ronald Reagan sold arms to Iran to finance terrorism in Nicaragua in the name of democracy. Look at how the US government has complete control over banking system/privacy even in Nicaragua!

    I’ll take the FSLN grinding wheel any day over guillotine in Washington.

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