Defeating the “Nica Act” in Managua

It’s of vital importance that we overcome our fears in order to denounce and document the corruption

by Carlos F. Chamorro  (Confidencial)

The US Congress.

HAVANA TIMES – The recently released new version of the Nica Act, which proposes that the US government automatically veto any loans to Nicaragua from multilateral agencies such as the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund,  is worthy of condemnation for ethical as well as practical reasons.

There’s no possible political justification for an attempt to close off the country’s access to international loans for development projects.  Not only because access to the multilateral loan organizations is a sovereign right, but also because suspending them would hurt the population more than the dictatorship it claims to punish, depriving them of infrastructure for production or social needs.

The proposal clearly runs contrary to the national interest. However, the cause of the Nica Act doesn’t reside in the supposed lobbying of opposition sectors in the US Congress – as an official communiqué irresponsibly alleges – but in the demolition of the democratic institutions that the government itself has perpetrated.

The only person responsible for eventual economic and political sanctions is President Ortega, who has repeatedly violated the Constitution of the Republic and run roughshod over the international agreements signed by Nicaragua regarding democracy and human rights, with abuses that include electoral frauds, the annulment of the separation of powers, political repression and corruption.

The new draft of the Nica Act broadens and hardens the conditions that were already contemplated in the bill passed last year by the House of Representatives, (which didn’t become law because if wasn’t considered by the Senate).  Graver yet, it totally ignores the results of the political agreement hammered out between the government and OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, in order to put the brakes on such a law.

It’s no secret to anybody that the only reason why Comandante Ortega agreed to a dialogue with the OAS was the threat of the Nica Act, an initiative that arose as a result of the closing of political spaces during the November 2016 election process. Suddenly, the government pivoted from demanding Almagro’s dismissal to holding a closed-door dialogue with the OAS.

Meanwhile, Almagro filed his report on the collapse of democracy in Nicaragua in the drawer, in order to give Ortega some incentive to offer small concessions regarding the electoral mechanisms.

The result was a political agreement to be realized over three years, including a “clean slate and fresh start” policy, clearly demonstrating the double standard used in dealing with the cases of Nicaragua and Venezuela.  However by reviving the Nica Act while ignoring the dialogue with the OEA, the US congress members confirm the fact that Almagro and Ortega wasted an opportunity.  The agreement can’t be considered credible as a path towards the reestablishment of democracy in Nicaragua because it doesn’t touch on the entire complex of issues related to Nicaragua’s violation of the Democratic Charter of the OAS itself.

And if any doubt remained, Ortega further discredited the agreement with Almagro during the debate regarding the crisis in Venezuela, in which his government came out defending Nicolas Maduro’s dictatorship and attacking the very OAS that supposedly was to serve as his life raft before the U.S. Congress.

So while Almagro complains to members of Congress that the Nica Act “isn’t constructive” and begs for time so that his dialogue can obtain results, the government of Nicaragua in their communiqué doesn’t even defend the minimal commitments that they acquired with Almagro and the OAS.  In reality, their only interest has been to gain time without ever having had a commitment to reestablish democracy.

The future of the Nica Act as a law is, impossible to predict for now, since it depends on political factors associated with the internal dynamics of the US Senate and House.  The only clear factor is that the threat of economic sanctions can only be defeated in Managua and not in Washington.  Here is where the root of the problem lies: the demolition of our democratic institutions and the public corruption that we’ve documented with full proofs in this medium, without seeing any effort on the part of the Comptroller, the public prosecutor’s office, the National Assembly or the Supreme Court to carry out an official investigation and punish the corrupt.

The only virtue the Nica Act has is that it will force Nicaraguan society, in particular the private sector that maintains an economic alliance with the authoritarian regime, to confront the cancer of corruption and the lack of public transparency that at present doesn’t form any part of their agenda.

In Nicaragua, we don’t need the US State Department to publish a report about corruption as the Nica Act demands, to confirm the existence of unchecked corruption.  There’d be proof enough if the authorities would only investigate the denunciations presented by the independent press regarding the illegal misappropriation of over 4 billion dollars in Venezuelan government foreign aid that has been placed at the service of the private enterprises of the presidential family with no accountability.

Although it’s not viable in the short term, because we lack a democratic state, it’s of vital importance that we overcome our fear in order to denounce and document the corruption.  If we truly want to put the brakes on the Nica Act, the first step is to put limits on the abuses of power and the corruption.  Otherwise, the country will continue to be held hostage by an institutional dictatorship that now faces the threat of economic sanctions.  Tomorrow could even be worse.