Aid for Nicaragua Should Be Taken off Hold

By Jared Kotler. Jared Kotler is an associate with the Washington Office on Latin America. | The Christian Science Monitor, June 18, 1992 | Go to article overview

Aid for Nicaragua Should Be Taken off Hold


Jared Kotler. Jared Kotler is an associate with the Washington Office on Latin America., The Christian Science Monitor


UNITED States policy toward Nicaragua has reached a moment of truth. It is up to the Bush administration to decide how it wants to proceed. In recent weeks, Republican members of Congress, led by Sen. Jesse Helms, have asked the administration to stop the disbursal of $100 million in already-approved US economic assistance to Nicaragua.

Still fighting the cold war, Mr. Helms is miffed by President Violeta Chamorro's pursuit of policies of national reconciliation, particularly her decision to retain Sandinistas ("Communist Sandinistas" in Helms's letter to the administration) in leadership positions in Nicaragua's police and armed forces. The warning to Mrs. Chamorro is clear: Change your government, or risk losing US aid.

The administration should demonstrate its unequivocal support for the government it helped bring to power, and reject this heavy-handed maneuver. The aid suspension has the support of some Democrats in the House of Representatives, but their concerns are economic, not political. They believe aid should be channeled more heavily toward economic development projects.

State Department representatives say they agree with Helms's concerns, but object to using US aid for such political purposes. But skeptics on Capitol Hill believe the administration is playing a double game, stating publicly its support for a resumption of aid, while privately taking advantage of the situation to pressure the Chamorro government to make political changes.

The US equivocation could not come at a worse time for Nicaragua. The $100 million now on hold is money the Chamorro government desperately needs to control inflation, stabilize Nicaragua's failing economy, and provide some hope of a better standard of living for the 70 percent of Nicaraguans living in poverty. If the US falters in its commitment to Nicaragua, it will undermine US goals and credibility in all of Central America. The seven Central American heads of state wrote President Bush on June 5, urging him to take a strong stand against putting a hold on the aid, and warning that any delays in US aid to Nicaragua would endanger not only Nicaragua's prospects for economic and political stability, but those of the whole region.

Congress's sudden interest in Nicaragua was triggered by a May 12 op-ed in the Washington Post by Jeane Kirkpatrick, who had just had a conversation in Washington with Nicaragua's National Assembly president, Alfredo Cesar. …

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