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Ambassador Trivelli Downplays Award Snafu

June 27, 2008

MANAGUA – The working relationship between the U.S. Embassy and the Sandinista government – which has been at times diplomatically tense, yet remained relatively stable – became notably less courteous last week when President Daniel Ortega blasted Ambassador Paul Trivelli as an envoy representing a “Yankee” policy that is “disrespectful and meddlesome.”

Ortega’s comments came after the official government daily, La Gaceta, reported that Trivelli was scheduled to receive the government’s José de Marcoleta Order of the Great Cross – a protocol recognition given to all departing ambassadors.

Trivelli’s three-year post as ambassador to Nicaragua ends next month.

Ortega, however, announced that he was taking back the decorative honor before it could be pinned on Trivelli’s lapel.

“The president of the republic is going to give an order to someone who represents a policy of disrespectful meddling against the Nicaraguan people? No, there will be no order from the president for the Yankee ambassador! There will no order! Let that be totally clear,” Ortega said emphatically, adding that he had already ordered La Gaceta to annul the official resolution that gave Trivelli the award.

The ambassador, for his part, opted to downplay the situation, saying that the award business is up to the government of Nicaragua. He said he hadn’t even been officially notified that he was set to receive an award.

The award, however, is considered a courtesy protocol to all departing envoys; the past three U.S. ambassadors to Nicaragua received the award from the foreign minister upon completing their posts here, according to embassy spokeswoman Kristin Stewart.

Ex-foreign minister and political analyst Emilio Alvarez said that Ortega’s lack of courtesy with Trivelli shows that he “doesn’t pardon old actions” from the days of the 2006 presidential election, when the U.S. ambassador was criticized for campaigning against Ortega.

But in diplomatic terms, the analyst said, the lack of a proper send-off for Trivelli sends an unfriendly message to Washington, D.C. And though Alvarez said he doesn’t think the incident will have too much echo in diplomatic terms, it shows the Ortega administration’s “ambivalence” and the “instability of its international relations.”

Alvarez defends the work of Trivelli, who he says on a professional level did a good job representing his government’s message here, and on a personal level showed concern for the needs of the poor, especially by helping to facilitate the U.S. Millennium Challenge Account and responding to the devastation of last year’s Hurricane Felix.

“You can’t say he was indifferent” about the situation of the poor, Alvarez said. “If anything, he was hyperactive.”

Trivelli, 54, says he is proud of what was accomplished during his period as ambassador here. During an interview with The Nica Times last year, the ambassador said what has always impressed him the most about Nicaragua is “the warmth of its people and the fact that a majority of Nicaraguans have a genuinely positive attitude toward the United States.”

Trivelli will be replaced as ambassador here by Robert Callahan, the former righthand man to John Negroponte, who served as one of the architects of the Contra war while U.S. ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s.

 

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