President Daniel Ortega and First Lady Rosario Murillo last week received a U.S. Congressional delegation headed by Democratic Representative Elliot Engel (New York), a member of the House Committee on International Affairs.
Ortega told the visiting delegation that Nicaragua wants to have relations with the United States within a framework of respect, especially during the world financial crisis.
Ortega said that the United States should dedicate more economic resources to Latin America to help combat drug trafficking, immigration and problems of unemployment in the region.
“As more U.S. resources are invested in Latin America, there will be more employment and the population won’t need to emigrate to your country,” Ortega said.
Despite Ortega’s lobbying efforts, the Sandinista president has not been very successful in nurturing the aid his government was already receiving from the United States.
In March, the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) will make its final decision about whether or not to permanently end its $175 million development aid package to Nicaragua, which was partially suspended last year following allegations of massive electoral fraud in last November’s municipal elections.
Accompanying Congressmen Engel were Democratic Congressmen Rubén Hinojosa (Texas) and John Salazar (Colorado), as well as Republican Representatives Virginia Foxx (North Carolina), Jean Schmidt (Ohio) and Mark Souder (Indiana).
During the meeting, Ortega explained his government’s efforts to confront the world crisis, and lauded the support of countries such as Venezuela and Cuba. Ortega also repeated his past muddling of Central American integration with the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), which only Nicaragua and Honduran have joined in Central America.
“We, the countries of Central America, have been finding diverse ways to expand our markets and one of them is within the system of ALBA,” Ortega said.
Congressman Engel said the two countries need to work in partnership.
“It is absolutely natural that the United States and Nicaragua are partners and friends,” he said in the closed door meeting, according to a Sandinista press release. “I want to do everything in my reach to strengthen these ties, even though friends don’t necessarily need to be in agreement on everything.”
The congressional delegation also met with Foreign Minister Samuel Santos and Vice-Minister Valdrak Jaentschke.
The Sandinista press release did not mention the suspended MCC funds or any U.S. concerns over the November municipal elections or the general state of democracy in Nicaragua.
The U.S. Embassy did not release any information about the visit, and representatives from Engle’s office in the United States did not respond by press time.