The next U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua is Robert Callahan, who played a key role for the U.S. State Department when it waged a covert war on Nicaragua’s Sandinista government in the 1980s.
The White House on Tuesday confirmed several media reports in the past week suggesting that Callahan will take the reigns from Ambassador Paul Trivelli, who recently announced he will leave his post in July.
Callahan served in the 1980s as spokesman and speechwriter for the U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, John Negroponte, who played a central role in overseeing the United States’ role in the contra war against the first Sandinista government.
Negroponte, now the U.S. deputy secretary of state, “engineered” Callahan’s nomination, wrote U.S. journalist Stephen Kinzer in a recent column for the British daily The Guardian. Kinzer, a former New York Times bureau chief in Nicaragua, accused U.S. State Department officials of “still fighting the contra war.”
The daily El Nuevo Diario ran an editorial last week calling Callahan a “Reaganera hawk” and urged the potential ambassador to stay out of political affairs in an electoral year – municipal elections will take place in November – if, indeed, Callahan gets the official tap from the Bush administration.
Others were less taken aback by the announcement.
“People change,” said Sandinista legislator Pedro Haslam.
The vice-president of the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Commissions pointed out that many former contras, like Vice President Jaime Morales, have allied with the Sandinistas. Haslam said he respects Callahan’s potential appointment as a “sovereign decision” by the United States.
Julio Icaza, a former Sandinista who served as Nicaragua’s deputy permanent representative before the United Nations in the 1980s, said he doubts the appointment will significantly change U.S. policy toward Nicaragua.
Unless there is a major unforeseen change in Nicaragua concerning terrorism, drug trafficking or trade relations – all priority issues for the U.S. State Department – any new ambassador won’t likely make many policy changes, he said.
Nicaragua‘s Foreign Ministry deferred questions about Callahan’s appointment to the U.S. Embassy in Managua.