Nicaragua’s newspaper La Prensa reports this morning that the U.S. has frozen a foreign assistance program to Nicaragua funded by U.S. taxpayers through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). Kudos to the MCC CEO, Ambassador John Danilovich, for moving swiftly to protect U.S. taxpayer monies and, in the process, send a clear message to the Sandinistas that resorting to their old ways will not be tolerated by the United States.
“At a time of global economic uncertainty and rough times at home, U.S. taxpayers monies are an even more precious commodity that should not be squandered,” I penned a few weeks ago. This first post generally discussed the terms and conditions of the MCC compact with Nicaragua. Related pieces on foreign assistance giving to Nicaragua can also be found here and here.
It appears as if the MCC response may have been prompted by a letter sent by the U.S. Congress to the MCC on November 20. In a press release, Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf said that “[t]he United States should always seek to reward democracy and good governance, not implicitly condone authoritarian leaders by turning a blind eye to repression and corruption.”
Nicaragua’s road to democracy has not been easy and a great deal remains to be done. A stable and free Nicaragua, based on rule of law and free enterprise, is in the region’s interest. U.S. foreign assistance programs, such as the current MCC compact with Nicaragua, can be a vital component of that process.
In 1990, Nicaragua held its first free elections since the Sandinistas violently took control in 1979. At the root of some of today’s electoral problems are old wounds that never healed; and a lack of accountability and justice for the past misdeeds and human rights abuses of the Sandinistas. These things cannot be swept under the rug and forgotten. Fortunately, the Nicaraguan opposition is making sure that sunshine is cast on this current wave of Sandinista trouble making.
A former high-ranking U.S. diplomat who served during the Reagan Administration told me a few years ago that he was somewhat disappointed about how Nicaragua has turned out. The U.S. invested a great deal of time, money, and effort to ensure that freedom, not communism or its cousin socialism, took hold in that part of the world. The in-fighting amongst the opposition and corruption by elected officials were destroying the young, yet vibrant democracy.
The one thing that struck me about his comments, however, was that nowhere in today’s Managua could you find a street, statue, or building honoring the one person during the Cold War who never gave up on Nicaragua and its quest for freedom, Ronald Reagan. It is not as if Americans go around the world seeking praise, Americans do not. Yet in many Eastern Bloc countries, you will find streets named after Reagan or some other U.S. symbol. It is a small, but much appreciated token. Not so in Nicaragua, or most Latin American capital cities. They could really use such a reminder in Managua today.
Today’s Nicaraguan opposition is bitterly divided and splintered. In light of recent events, it should take a long hard look at the past, as well as recent events. Their efforts these past two weeks should be a lesson that, despite their personal and political differences, only a unified can work to counter Sandinista extremism and new-found adventurism in the Americas. They must not be allowed to abuse laws and the ballot box to turn Nicaragua in to a failed socialist state yet again.
The freezing of U.S. assistance is a victory of U.S. taxpayers. It sends a small, but powerful message about the U.S. and its values to those in political power who care to listen. If the Nicaraguans can fix current issues, it is possible, even likely, that the MCC would reinstate the program. If the Sandinistas insist on undermining rule of law and democratic institutions, the U.S. should continue to respond in-kind by freezing other programs and, if they ask for it, supporting the opposition.