Michael Healy: Businesspeople Must Set the Example

“We already know the damage that reelection has brought to this country,” said candidate for the presidency of COSEP

By Ivan Olivares (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – The president of the Union of Agricultural Producers of Nicaragua (UPANIC), Mike Healy, assures that businesspeople must set the example for the country, regarding the issue of reelection, promising that, if they elect him president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), “I will complete my three years without running for reelection.”

The incumbent of UPANIC is the second candidate to seek the presidency of that collegiate body, after the president of the Nicaraguan Association of Formulators and Distributors of Agrochemicals (ANIFODA), Mario Hanon, announced his interest in assuming the position that Jose Adan Aguerri has held for thirteen years.

That was possible because, after completing his first year as the head of the entity, and reelected for one more year, Aguerri managed to get his COSEP peers to reform the statutes on two occasions: in 2008, so that the reelection would be indefinite, and in 2017, so that the periods were three years, and not just one.

“We already know the damage that reelection has brought to this country. As businesspeople, we must set an example,” said Healy, when interviewed for the program “Esta Semana,” which is broadcasted online, due to the censorship imposed by the government of Daniel Ortega.

The producer recalled that, when the COSEP statute change was made in 2017, “Upanic was the only chamber that did not sign that change from one to three years, and we maintain that,” although he recalled that, in the end, it is a decision that the 26 members will have to make together.

He recalled that on July 1, Upanic presented a new proposal to reform the statutes, but “a lot of people attacked us, with an alarmist position, so we withdrew it. Therefore, let the new board of directors change its bylaws, and place restrictions. Restrictions are worthy so that we do not fall back into this situation of the last years.

Towards the future, a more modern COSEP has to emerge. Since 2004, there has been no election with two or more candidates. We have to ensure that once this election passes, we will have a more united COSEP, and be strengthened institutionally, although the COSEP elections have always been democratic,” he asserted.

Dialogue with big, medium and small entrepreneurs

The candidate said that he will apply the same policy when facing the other two big internal issues that this member organization has to resolve: its governance, and allowing the chambers to regain their leading role.

To do this, he proposes that the proposal presented by the Mexican consultant Francisco Quintal be retaken, who they would try to bring back to the country to help find jointly, the best form of internal governance, in addition to promising that “if I am elected president, I will work in consensus, in dialogue, with all the chambers. Decisions will not be unilateral: they will be voted by members.”

That relationship should also include representatives of big capital, who form a club called “Counsellors of Cosep” which some view as the will behind some of the most important decisions made within that member entity.

“I have been known from Upanic, from that association, as an independent person, someone who dialogues and listens. They have the right, because they are entrepreneurs and partners of COSEP, therefore, we are going to listen to them, but also to the medium and small entrepreneurs, to shape the strategy that will lead Cosep into the future,” he stated.

Faced with the need to avoid conflicts of interest, Healy pointed out that they began to draft a Code of Ethics since last year, and he proposes to finish it soon to put it into effect.

“Entrepreneurs should not be occupying positions in the government. For that there are independent businesspeople, who are not members of our chambers, and have every right to participate in governments, or run in different institutions,” he added.

Shared guilt

Questioned about the substance of the change that he proposes to his Cosep peers, Healy argued that “we have to look back to see what the mistakes were, not to make them the future.” The most stinging of all was to accept the poisoned offer made to them by the Daniel Ortega regime to integrate a “corporate government”.

Recalling those times, Healy said that “we progressed a lot in the economic arena. Unfortunately, no attention was paid to the institutional issue, and although we pushed it, the government ignored it. In the political sphere, most of the political parties sold themselves to the government,” he considered.

Healy defended that COSEP had to work on the economic agenda, “because in the end, the government is a facilitator of the different sectors,” arguing that civil society was the one that failed. “I remember when we went in 2008, 2009, 2010, as a group we went to stand in front of the Supreme Electoral Council. We were only 10 to 15 people. Where was the rest of society for us to make those changes since then? He asked.

Looking in retrospect, he finds “a combination of several things: not only did the government made the wrong decisions on the institutional issue, but everyone did, many Nicaraguans did not participate in the pressure to make those changes, especially at times when Daniel Ortega was starting his regime, and didn’t have the strength he has now.”

“There, the culprit wasn’t only Cosep. As (radio entrepreneur) Don Fabio (Gadea Mantilla) says: It’s not the fault of those who are wrong. The fault lies with the absent, and here there were population groups that did not give importance to this, and did not protest,” he added.

The president of UPANIC insisted that “we have to look at the past to see the mistakes and not make them again in the future, there must be a permanent dialogue between all sectors, and if I reach the presidency of Cosep, I will lead that dialogue to bring those proposals that the country needs to get out of the quagmire in which this government has us.”

Broadening on the topic, Healy declares himself “a believer that a dialogue is needed” that must begin internally to modernize Cosep, but also with all sectors: “be they politicians, civil society, or NGOs, because we are all the sectors that represent Nicaragua, those of us who have to create a national plan for the future.”

The role of Cosep

When analyzing the role of the business chamber in the recent history of the country, Healy recalled how, over 48 years, they have played “a fundamental role in the changes in Nicaragua. Cosep’s role is not only entrepreneurial or economic: it aims at strengthening institutions, so as not to repeat past mistakes, and not return to this situation every 40 years.”

That is why Cosep is in the Civic Alliance, and Healy believes they should continue there.

“We are dialoguing with all sectors and looking for strategies to create that great unity that the Nicaraguan population is crying out for, to have those changes that are necessary,” he explained.

“The fastest way, the civic way, provided by the Constitution, is through free and transparent elections. We are promoting the issue of electoral reform, as well as the fulfillment of the two agreements that were signed on March 27 and March 29 of last year, for the total release of all political prisoners, and on the other hand, the restoration of citizen rights that have been violated, and the return of all confiscated properties,” he explained.

Healy recalled that, just as there are media outlets whose newsrooms have been illegally confiscated, such as Confidencial, Esta Semana and 100% Noticias, there are also some thirty producers, who still have some 3,360 hectares of land taken over, “and we have to work on all that.”

“In the Civic Alliance we are working on this great unity. The Alliance was born from dialogue. We are open to dialogue, and our job is to make sure that, although not all are in the National Coalition right now, we approach the sectors and organizations that are not there, and dialogue with them to seek their joining into a great unity,” he proposed.