Canada Cuts Aid to Nicaragua over Repression

Daniel Ortega’s paramilitary forces have been a symbol of the deadly repression unleased by his government against any and all voices of dissent. Photo: Reuters

HAVANA TIMES – While not being as vocal as it has against the Maduro government in Venezuela, for months, Canada has been pulling out its programs and assistance in Nicaragua after the violent repression unleashed by the Ortega government against defenseless citizens.

A secret foreign ministry (Global Affairs) memorandum, from August, 2018, obtained by CBC News, describes the “nationwide crisis” that started in Nicaragua with anti-government protests in April. “Almost all independent observers agree,” the memo reads, “that the government of Nicaragua is directly responsible for over 300 fatalities and 1,000 injuries, as well as a range of human rights abuses that include excessive use of force by police and paramilitaries against unarmed civilians, arbitrary use of lethal force [extrajudicial executions], arbitrary arrests and intimidation.”

The memo further mentions the behind the scenes measures taken by Canada at the time and suggests what it might do in the future “should the situation continue to deteriorate.”

The initial actions taken without making them public were to “stop all federal government payments to the government of Nicaragua,” notes CBC News.

Last year’s memo just revealed adds:

“Canada is one of the top five largest bilateral donors to Nicaragua, with an overall assistance program of approximately $20 million per year via all aid channels.”

“However, given that the government of Nicaragua no longer meets the conditions for the provision of direct Canadian financial assistance to partner countries, the department has suspended all future payments to the government of Nicaragua for the five projects mentioned above.”

In its report, CBC listed the projects     

-A $19.8-million rural electrification project. This project was scheduled to continue into 2019 to help connect 12,500 households in the Nicaraguan countryside to the electrical grid. Enatrel, Nicaragua’s state-owned power company, is the official partner.

Canada’s Global Affairs headquarters in Ottawa.

-Growing Climate-Smart Family Enterprises. This $7.9-million project with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Family was scheduled to run through to 2023.

-Preventing Adolescent Pregnancies. This sexual health and reproductive health program also involves Canada’s Ministry of Families and Social Development and would have received $7.6 million from Ottawa by its end in 2022.

-Inclusive and violence-free communities. Nicaragua’s National Police is the partner in this five-year, $7.35-million project. The police are one of the main agents of government repression in Nicaragua.

-Technolinks+. This program intended to improve the productivity and income of 35,000 small farmers in poverty-stricken northern Nicaragua, is administered by the Mennonite Economic Development Associates, with a value of $9.5 million and a timeline of 2016-22.

The suspension of the electrification project ends an effort that stretches back to 2009 and has seen hundreds of rural communities in Nicaragua connected to the grid, the Canadian government noted.

“While there is no intention to publicly announce Canada’s suspension of direct aid to the government of Nicaragua,” reads the memo, “the decision can reach the public domain at any point and it would likely generate media attention.”

Adam Austen, spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, told CBC that the situation has not improved during the seven months since the memo was written back in August 2018.

“Our government is concerned by the deteriorating human rights situation and economic downturn in Nicaragua. In light of these concerns, we made the decision to suspend direct financial assistance to the Nicaraguan government last summer,” Austen said. “We continue to provide support for projects that are implemented by NGOs and international organizations, with a focus on help for the most vulnerable.”

“President Ortega’s repressive actions against his people are unacceptable. We continue to consider all diplomatic and policy options at our disposal in order to support the Nicaraguan people,” concluded the official.