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Obama invites Central America presidents to post-summit meeting

April 3, 2009

President Daniel Ortega and the other presidents of the Central American Integration System (SICA) will finally have a chance for a sit-down meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on April 19 in Trinidad, immediately following the Fifth Summit of the Americas, Nicaragua´s first lady Rosario Murillo said Tuesday afternoon in a press release.

The meeting with Obama was confirmed by the U.S. Embassy in Managua, which said that the White House´s invitation to meet with Central American leaders went through President Ortega, the president pro tempore of SICA.

A meeting held last month in Costa Rica with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was skipped by Ortega and Honduran President Mel Zelaya because it was organized by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias “on the margins” of SICA.

Following the Biden meeting in San José, Sandinista economist and former Nicaraguan Minister of Foreign Trade Alejandro Martínez Cuenca said the United States had missed an opportunity to lay the groundwork for a new era of relations with Central America by “prioritizing personal relations with Arias over respect for Central America´s institutional order.”

Martínez stressed the need for a new chapter in U.S.-Central American relations based on “mutual respect and cooperation.” But he stressed that it is important for diplomacy to be done properly and through formal channels, which in the case of Central America means going through SICA.

Emilio Alvarez, former Foreign Minister of Nicaragua, says another reason Ortega snubbed the Costa Rica meeting was because of his ego.  

“He likes to think he is a big international leader,” Alvarez said.

The Obama administration´s nod to Ortega and SICA yesterday could serve to repair the Nicaraguan leader´s damaged ego and reinforce his claims to a leadership role in Central America.

Ortega said last month that he thinks the United States should give Central America its own bailout plan. In past weeks, Ortega has also repeated his call for the United States to end the embargo on Cuba.

It remains to be seen if those are the issues he will push in the SICA meeting with Obama, and what the other Central American leaders will have to say about the agenda that´s presented.

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