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Context of 'September 22-23, 2006: US Congressman Theatens Less Aid for Nicaraguans If Ortega Wins Elections'

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Dan Burton (R-IN), the chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, asks for more than twelve sets of internal Justice Department documents that detail purported fund-raising abuses by the 1996 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Burton also wants documents relating to the FBI’s use of mob informants by its Boston office, where evidence indicates that the office literally let the informants get away with murder and suppressed evidence that allowed an innocent man to go to prison. Burton’s request causes a dilemma for the White House. On the one hand, President Bush and Vice President Cheney have given explicit instructions for staffers to resist such calls for information. On the other hand, when Burton had delved into the questions surrounding Clinton’s last-minute pardons, Bush had already given him unprecedented access to Clinton’s private conversations (see August 21, 2001). Burton immediately released edited transcripts of the tapes (see August 21, 2001). The administration ponders whether or not to release the documents, and in the process perhaps further impugn Clinton, or to refuse, preserving their standard of executive privilege. It will eventually come down on the side of secrecy (see December 13, 2001). (Dean 2004, pp. 85-86)

Nicaraguan presidential candidate Daniel Ortega says that if he wins the election on November 5, he will make sure that Nicaragua joins the Alternativa Bolivariana para la America (ALBA), or the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. Initiated by Venezuelan and Cuba in 2005, ALBA is intended to counter Washington’s Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA). One of ALBA’s stated goals is to promote social and economic justice. (Rogers 5/5/2006)

US ambassador in Managua Paul Trivelli sends a letter to Nicaraguan conservative political parties offering US support for primaries that would select one presidential candidate to run against Sandinista Daniel Ortega. The US is concerned that in a multi-candidate race, Ortega will secure enough votes to avoid a run-off election. According to Nicaraguan election law, a candidate only needs 35 percent of the votes to win. The letter states: “As part of my government’s efforts to respond to these requests to promote democratic practices and free elections in Nicaragua, the US is willing to collaborate in this process.” Trivelli says the parties must respond with a list of their candidates no later than April 18. All of the parties reject the request. (Nicaragua News Service 4/12/2006)

Nicaraguan presidential candidate Daniel Ortega strikes a deal with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez that will allow an alliance of 51 Nicaraguan mayors, many from the Sandinista party, to purchase 10 million barrels of Venezuelan fuel on preferential terms. Under the agreement, the mayors will pay 60 percent of the cost of their purchases within 90 days of shipment, with the remaining 40 percent payable over the next 25 years at one percent interest, with a two-year grace period. In Nicaragua, high oil prices have led to rolling blackouts and transportation strikes. (Xinhua News Agency (Beijing) 4/26/2006; Associated Press 5/5/2006) Chavez says Venezuela will also donate 10,000 tons of urea to Sandinista farming organizations. (Associated Press 5/5/2006) During Ortega’s visit to Venezuela, he also says (see April or May 2006) that if he wins the November 5 elections, he will make sure Nicaragua joins the Alternativa Bolivariana para la America (ALBA), or the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, which was initiated by Venezuela and Cuba in 2005.

In an interview with the Financial Times, US ambassador to Nicaragua Paul Trivelli justifies his recent warnings to Nicaraguans that the country will suffer if they elect Daniel Ortega as their next president. He tells the newspaper that Ortega is “undemocratic” and that the US will likely reconsider its relations with the country if he is elected in November. He says that Ortega, who months before struck a deal with Hugo Chavez to import fuel on preferential terms (see April 25, 2006), “has made it pretty clear what kind of model he would put in place. And I think that under those conditions… [bilateral relations] would definitely be re-examined—and not only by the executive or the State Department or the White House but by the US Congress.” Trivelli makes it clear that Washington is concerned that Ortega’s election would embolden efforts by leftist Latin American leaders to counter US initiatives in the region. (Thomson 9/14/2006)

Congressman Dan Burton, Chair of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the House’s Committee on International Relations, is in Managua, Nicaragua on a two-day visit to meet with presidential candidates Eduardo Montealegre and Edmundo Jarquin. The two US-backed candidates are running against Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega, who polls suggest may win the presidency on November 5. Montealegre is a Harvard-educated banker; Jarquin, a Sandinista dissident. (Aleman 9/22/2006) During a press conference, Burton warns that the US could cut $175 million in aid to Nicaragua through the Millenium Challenge Account and block Nicaragua’s participation in the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) if Ortega wins the elections. He also states that if Ortega creates a state agency to process remittances from the US, as he has promised, Nicaraguan families might end up earning “much, much less money” and would experience “a significantly reduced quality of life.” Ortega has pledged to “make sure that Nicaraguans get 100 percent of their remittances.” Transfers from family members working in the US are usually sent through private companies such as Western Union, which charge a hefty commission. Remittances are the primary source of income for many families and accounted for 16.9 percent of the country’s GDP and 99 percent of its exports in 2005. (Keith-Jennings 10/5/2006)


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