Nicaragua, an outspoken member of the new anti-imperialist bloc in the western hemisphere, last month won the backing of the 33-member Latin American and Caribbean group at the UN for presidency of the General Assembly—nearly assuring it of election to the one-year post in June. The man Nicaragua has put forward to be the new GA president this fall is Rev. Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, a Catholic priest who was foreign minister of the Sandinista government from 1979 to 1990 and last year became a foreign affairs adviser to Daniel Ortega, the first Sandinista president, when he returned to office.
President Ortega this fall addressed the opening of the General Assembly, railing against “the tyranny of global imperialistic capitalism” and calling the United States “the most gigantic and powerful dictatorship that has existed in all the history of humanity.” He asked what right the country that dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had to judge the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran.
“The United States has nothing to worry about with Nicaragua’s presidency,” said María Rubiales de Chamorro, Nicaragua’s UN ambassador. In a line seemingly calculated to play to both sides, she added: “The Central America of the 1980s is a thing of the past, and the United States has to understand that there is a new spirit of solidarity in the region.”
She said that D’Escoto would dedicate himself to strengthening the power of the 192-member General Assembly, a body which has long resented the power of the 15-member Security Council and its five veto-bearing permanent members. (NYT, April 13)
Plan Colombia and the FTA
Nicaragua’s drive for the GA presidency comes as Beltway right-wingers are mounting a counter-attack to the recent decision by the House Democratic leadership to put off a vote on the Colombian free trade agreement. Their rhetoric portrays Colombia as a steadfast US ally and beacon of free markets and democracy in a region increasingly clouded by left-wing demagoguery.
“House members have sent a terrible signal to American allies” in the region, said Jaime Daremblum, former Costa Rican ambassador to the US and now director of the Center on Latin American Studies at the Washington-based Hudson Institute. He wrote that Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is “easily the closest US partner” in Latin America. He warned that US opposition to the FTA reinforces Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, and his populist counterparts in Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.
“Make no mistake: Latin American leaders will take notice. There is currently an ideological struggle raging across the region. While the president of Venezuela…tries to export his populist-authoritarian ‘revolution’…Colombia continues to show that democracy and free markets offer the best path to economic and social progress.”
Daremblum recalled that Colombia once enjoyed bipartisan support in Washington, referring to President Clinton’s support for “Plan Colombia,” while today Democrats are “pandering to anti-trade sentiment” among union leaders. “We should remember that Plan Colombia was originally a bipartisan initiative started by the Clinton administration,” he said. “It is distressing that the US-Colombia [FTA] has failed to garner similar support.” (Washington Times, April 18) (Note that Daremblum’s comments betray no abhorrence of “authoritarianism” when it isn’t populist—e.g. Uribe’s.)
Colombia’s Central America strategy stymied
Nicaragua’s President Ortega and his Honduran counterpart Manuel Zelaya signed a joint declaration April 11 in Tegucigalpa to strengthen bilateral relations, pledging increased cooperation on environment, energy and their border delimitation in the Caribbean sea. The two presidents had their picture taken in the cockpit of a Honduran F-5 warplane to symbolize their current peaceful relations. Honduras’ F-5s were considered by several Nicaraguan governments as offensive weapons endangering Nicaragua’s sovereignty. (Xinhua, April 11)
The pledge to resolve the outstanding border dispute is a defeat for Colombia, which has its own maritime border dispute with Nicaragua, and has been wooing Honduras and Costa Rica as allies in a regional anti-Nicaragua bloc.