During a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing entitled Democracy Held Hostage in Nicaragua: Part I, Congressman David Rivera (FL-25) questioned whether inaction on the part of the Obama Administration has led the Ortega dictatorship in Nicaragua to feel more legitimized.
The hearing featured testimony from Former U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Robert Callahan, Former Costa Rican Ambassador Jaime Darenblum and the Director of Americas Program at the Carter Center Jennifer Lynn McCoy, Ph.D.
Congressman Rivera thanked the panelists for participating and directed his question to Ambassador Callahan.
"I represent many, many Nicaraguan-Americans now in South Florida, perhaps more so than any other Member of Congress. I say Nicaraguan-Americans now, but many of them originally were Nicaraguan exiles, political exiles that fled the Sandinista dictatorship. Many of them that are now contributing, productive, positive members of society, many of them citizens, who have become Nicaraguan-Americans, have expressed dismay to me at the disturbing approach that we have seen from this administration vis-á-vis U.S. policy toward Nicaragua. Particularly in its lack of outspokenness regarding what many see as undemocratic measures that have been taken by Ortega and his regime in Nicaragua. Starting with the mechanisms that were utilized to approach this election and to be able to run again in this election; the anti-democratic means, that the Ortega regime manipulated the judiciary in order to evoke his qualifications for this election.
"It brings to mind what, again, many of these Nicaraguan-Americans have told me that they see from this administration as a lack of support for the forces of democracy in the region, and silence toward the forces of dictatorship in the region, such as Mr. Ortega and his dictatorial actions. I wonder if that silence from this administration, from the Obama Administration, in not strongly objecting to the mechanisms utilized to implement this election, as well as the results, the dubious results of these elections. Do you believe that that helps legitimize Ortega's regime, or legitimize his presidency? And what should be the consequences against the Ortega regime after these dubious elections?"
Ambassador Callahan noted that he would have appreciated more rhetorical support and a more explicit condemnation from Washington of what the Sandinistas were doing. He said that the relative silence of Washington over a period of years led the Sandinistas to believe that there was a different approach between his work at the embassy and that of the State Department.
"In fact, I was told by senior Sandinistas that I was not acting consistent with the policy of Washington, and that I was taking a harder line," Ambassador Callahan said.
The Ambassador also pointed out that Daniel Ortega has alienated many traditional donors, including the United States, European nations and Japan in favor of $500 million annually in unconditional aid from the Chavez regime in Venezuela, and that he believes that the kind of government that Ortega is forming based on "crony capitalism, nepotism and corruption ultimately will implode."