Nicaragua has benefited most from CAFTA

From Nicaragua News 12th April 2011

Even though the members of the Sandinista Party voted against the free trade agreement with the United States known as DR-CAFTA when the agreement came before the Nicaraguan National Assembly in 2006, the current Sandinista government of President Daniel Ortega said on Apr. 5 that Nicaragua was the country in Central America that had benefited most from the agreement. Speaking at a gathering celebrating the fifth anniversary of the agreement, Economy Minister Orlando Solorzano said that it “is an important instrument for the economic and social development of the country.” Alvaro Baltodano, presidential delegate for investment, said that the growth in Nicaraguan exports and in investment in the country has been the highest in the region. Exports to the United States have increased by 70.5% under CAFTA if free trade zone exports are included, reaching US$2.012 billion. Baltodano said that while the results of CAFTA have been good, “we must search for reforms that permit us to raise the level of competitiveness of our industries in a way that is not based on the sacrifice of the labor conditions [of our workers].”

In a meeting on Apr. 8, Francisco Campbell, Nicaragua’s ambassador to the United States, told the Nicaragua Network that it has been Nicaragua’s participation in both CAFTA and ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance for Our Americas) that has helped Nicaragua’s economy achieve the stability and growth noted in recent years. In exchange for oil, Nicaraguan sends agricultural products to Venezuela and this keeps demand for those products high and prices stable for farmers. Thus, subsidized US farm products have not caused the damage to Nicaragua’s agricultural sector that they have caused in other countries.

Speaking at the same Managua gathering, US Ambassador to Nicaragua Robert Callahan emphasized the positive achievement of a growth in exports of 71% in five years. At a press conference after the ceremonies were over, Callahan was asked about the dueling opposition and Sandinista marches on Apr. 2, when police prevented opposition marchers from following their route and there were injured among the police and marchers. He answered by saying that “Nicaraguans who want to demonstrate…, to march should have the opportunity to do it without fear, without intimidation and it is the obligation of the government and the police to protect and guarantee this right.” But when a reporter with Channel 4’s Multinoticias, a Sandinista outlet, asked Callahan about “crimes committed by US and European forces in the bombing of Libya,” he lost his composure and responded by saying, “I want to say something; with pleasure I respond to the questions of journalists, real journalists. You are an employee of the government; you are not a journalist. I’m tired of this. It’s just a provocation; you are not a journalist.”

Sources: La Prensa, Apr. 5, 9, 2011; Radio La Primerisima, Apr. 5, 2011.