(Los Angeles, California/ San Jose, Costa Rica) The United States analyzes “conclusively” excluding Nicaragua from the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), in response to a decree by President Daniel Ortega that authorizes the entry of foreign troops into his country, including the Russians that are currently invading Ukraine.
The announcement was made on Friday, June 10, by the main adviser to the president Joe Biden for hemispheric security issues, Juan González, during an interview given to the Voz de America (VOA) in the framework of the Summit of the Americas, held in Los Angeles, California.
González said that, although Washington knows that the entry of troops is something that Nicaragua carries out periodically and routinely, “that does not mean that it is not worrying.”
“Now we are analyzing their presence in CAFTA quite forcefully given what they are doing,” González said. He also indicated that “there is a consensus that Nicaragua is going in a direction that worries everyone in the hemisphere.”
He stressed that the United States has tried several times to “shake hands” with the Ortega administration “and have a dialogue with them” without any response from the Sandinista president.
“It does not matter what political spectrum the governments are on because, where one puts all the presidential candidates in jail in order to win an election, that is a signal and a very dangerous precedent,” said González, referring to the seven opponents who intended to dispute Ortega’s power in the 2021 elections and who were arrested and prosecuted “in anomalous processes.”
However, he indicated that they were “going to exhaust every opportunity to have a dialogue that leads to the freedom of political prisoners in the country and a policy that restores democratic order.”
“Otherwise, we are going to increase the pressure, but we are going to do it in a coordinated way with the countries of the region,” he concluded.
How easy or not the exclusion would be?
Previously, a group of Democratic and Republican congressmen requested the exclusion of Nicaragua from the free trade agreement, however, González acknowledges that although “it is very difficult” to carry out this measure, “we have broad national security authorities to impose restrictions on any country for issues” precisely security.
“Here the issue of Nicaragua, the invitation of external armies, especially one that has invaded another country, that is what should concern everyone,” González stressed.
The exclusion of Nicaragua from the Treaty would hit the country’s fragile economy, directly impacting exports, employment and economic activity already in crisis due to the pandemic and the socio-political crisis that began in 2018, according to experts.
A Nicaraguan economist said, on condition of anonymity for security reasons, that Nicaragua’s exit from this trade agreement would cause a sharp drop of 7.3% in real Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but he warns that the impact would be concentrated mainly between the exporters.
The Agreement — which entered into force in Managua in April 2006 — stimulates the economy and has managed to substantially increase exports to the United States, according to official data.
And it is that the United States is one of the main destinations of imports from Nicaragua, according to data from the Central Bank. In 2020, Nicaragua exported goods to the United States for an amount of 3,381.2 million dollars.
Officialism minimizes the scope of the arrival of troops
The government of President Daniel Ortega authorized last week the exchange of ships, aircraft and foreign military personnel for “exchange purposes and mutually beneficial humanitarian assistance.”
The decree authorizes, among other points, the entry of personnel and weapons of the Russian Armed Forces, which is at war with Ukraine after invading that country in February.
The pro-government legislator Wilfredo Navarro minimized the events and stated via telephone to VOA that this is something “that occurs in all Latin American countries. That in Nicaragua is not new. Members of the armies of Central America, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Russia and the United States come here,” Navarro justified.
He added that “it has nothing to do with establishing military bases. Those are crazy. The desire for protagonism makes them say anything outrageous. It is a program that is made for six months and it is what is approved so as not to be approving it every month, Navarro added.
However, at a time when Russian forces are invading Ukraine, analysts maintain that Ortega’s measure “is serious and dangerous.”
“This miscalculation of the dictatorship puts Nicaragua as a pawn, in a geopolitical conflict between two great powers instead of thinking about peace, security and prosperity for our long-suffering people,” wrote former diplomat Arturo McFields Yescas on his Twitter account.