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Ask the Ambassador: U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua, Paul A. Trivelli

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Welcome to "Ask the Ambassador" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to U.S. Ambassadors around the world.

U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Paul A. Trivelli discussed the U.S. government commitment to supporting democracy in Nicaragua.

Paul A. Trivelli, U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua
Paul A. Trivelli
U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua

Event Date: 12/15/2006

Anne from San Francisco, CA writes:

I've read news journals/perspectives with varying degrees of alarmism concerning the recent return to power/presidency of Daniel Ortega. He's stated a mission of continued investment in infrastructure, support for tourism etc. but many American investors seem to be pulling out. What is your perspective of the stability of the new government, and the new regime's respect for foreign property ownership? Thank you.

Ambassador Trivelli:

Anne, yours is an important question that many have asked in various forms. Nicaragua has gained momentum over the past 16 years in terms of consolidating democracy and achieving macro-economic stability. The country is also a signatory to the Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). The people of Nicaragua have shown a strong commitment to achieving a prosperous, democratic future. In other words, it would be a shame for Nicaragua to take a step backward. The U.S. government stands ready to work with the Ortega government based on its commitment to and actions in support of democracy, a market economy, and shared security concerns.

Andrew from Australia writes:

Do the Sandinistas still hold some power or does the U.S. still promote contra political agents?

Ambassador Trivelli:

The Sandinista Front for National Liberation (known as the FSLN in Spanish) obtained 38% of the popular vote in the recent Presidential elections this November. In accordance with Nicaraguan law, the FSLN candidate Daniel Ortega won this election. He will be inaugurated as President on January 10, 2007. The United States government recognizes this victory and has opened a dialogue with representatives of the new government. During the same election, the Nicaraguan people elected 37 FSLN Deputies to the National Assembly, out of a total of 92.

Carl from Germany writes:

Sir: Would you agree that strengthening an independent judicial system is one of the most important things to do in Nicaragua? What concrete measures do you suggest the government should do with respect to this challenge? Best regards.

Ambassador Trivelli:

Carl, I strongly agree. Numerous studies have shown that a strong, independent and respected judiciary and the rule of law are among the most important factors in attracting investment for the successful development of a country. We encourage the government to open dialogue with civil society groups and ensure that the process for appointing magistrates and judges is a transparent, merit-based system. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is actively engaged in programs not only to strengthen the judiciary system, but to improve rule of law in general in Nicaragua. These include training, advice and technical support for municipal good governance, support to civic groups seeking passage of a freedom of access to information act law, and training for judges. Please refer to the USAID website for more detailed information. http://nicaragua.usaid.gov/

Tara from Brooklyn, New York writes:

The U.S. has greeted Daniel Ortega's election with skepticism, and has hinted that it might take measure to isolate him. Do you think that it would be more productive to engage Ortega, and to try to draw him closer to some of the more moderate leftist governments in the region (like Lula in Brazil, Vazquez in Uruguay and Bachelet in [Chile]), instead of isolating him? Ortega seems to have indicated that he is interested in pursuing orthodox economic policies - instead of tightening state control of the economy. And don't you think that isolating him would just lead him to the Hugo Chavez camp?

Ambassador Trivelli:

Tara, thank you for your question. I would disagree that the U.S. government has signaled isolation of the new Ortega government. On November 28, Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Thomas Shannon and I met with president-elect Ortega. We had a productive conversation, opening dialogue between our two governments. Since then, members of the Embassy staff and I have met with the new government's transition team to brief them on the wide variety of U.S. government assistance programs available, such as the Millennium Challenge Account, USAID programs to spread the benefits of CAFTA-DR among rural and small business owners, Peace Corps and others. As a sovereign nation, Nicaragua has to chart its own course in terms of regional relations. The most beneficial relations will be those that help Nicaragua alleviate its great poverty while simultaneously strengthening its democratic and civil society.

Martin from Germany writes:

Sir: Do you consider the recently elected left-wing government led by Daniel Ortega to be the very beginning of an authoritarian style of governing as we are now facing in Venezuela under Chavez?

Ambassador Trivelli:

The President-elect's statements have so far been moderate in nature. I think we need to wait until the new administration takes office before I can really begin to answer your question.

Kelsie from Texas writes:

How important for the interests of the United States in the region is the success of democracy in Nicaragua?

Ambassador Trivelli:

Kelsie, as a Texan, I'm sure you know first hand the close relationship between the United States and our southern neighbors. Political instability can lead to a poor economy in Nicaragua and the greater Central American region. This can contribute to conditions which lead to migration (both legal and illegal) to the U.S. The success of democracy in Nicaragua is very important not only to U.S. interests but, for their regional neighbors as well. By helping Nicaragua have a successful democracy, more Nicaraguans can voice their needs to elected officials. A stronger, more democratic Nicaragua will in turn attract additional foreign investment, needed for economic growth.

Zane from New York writes:

Dear Mr. Ambassador: Nicaragua needs help. The U.S. can't cut off trade just because it doesn't like a government. How is the U.S. going to deal with this new president?

Ambassador Trivelli:

Zane, greetings to a fellow New Yorker. I agree, Nicaragua needs international trade to strengthen its economy, create jobs and provide goods and services to its people. The U.S. government and Nicaragua are joint signatories to CAFTA-DR. In fact, in the first year of CAFTA-DR, Nicaraguan exports have increased 30%. The United States Government is committed to supporting a free market economy in Nicaragua. We do this through several programs such as the Millennium Challenge Account and USAID projects designed to assist producers in building trade capacity.

George from New York City writes:

Hi Mr. Trivelli. I am interested in traveling to Nicaragua for a week to go surfing. My major concern is safety as I've heard many stories about bandits running lawlessly around the countryside. Also, what is the stature of Daniel Ortega coming back to power and how that affects the general safety of the tourists. Thanks.

Ambassador Trivelli:

George, we look forward to your visit! The Pacific Coast of Nicaragua has excellent surfing available. Like any tourist destination, you need to be alert to local conditions and aware of potential risks. The Consular Section and Regional Security Office in the Embassy work with local law enforcement to obtain information on conditions in Nicaragua and inform residents and visitors of issues that may affect their security. For the latest 'Warden Messages' please visit our website at: http://nicaragua.usembassy.gov/travel_warnings.html

Adolfo from Nicaragua writes:
Original question received in Spanish [Translated, and edited for length]:

You have been a harsh critic of the FSLN (Sandinista Front for National Liberation Party) and Daniel Ortega. How do you see things a month after the elections? …What has happened since the Shannon Ortega meeting, have there been meetings? Is your government worried about the future of the Millennium Challenge Account in Nicaragua? ...Will the United Status make an effort in the future to unify the non-Sandinista parties in Nicaragua? Regarding this, does the United States believe that [former Nicaraguan President] Arnoldo Alemán is an obstacle to that unity?

Ambassador Trivelli:

Adolfo, you ask many detailed political questions that will likely be answered over time. Though we do not endorse any one media outlet in Nicaragua, an online publication which closely tracks political developments there is the online publication Informe Pastran, http://www.informepastran.com/

As a Nicaraguan, you know that I have often said in the local press that the U.S. government respects the sovereignty of Nicaragua and the people's right to choose their elected leaders. We will work with those leaders based on their concrete actions in support of the democratic, prosperous future that so many Nicaraguans express to me is their desire.

Regarding meetings with the FSLN transition team, please see my answer to Tara from Brooklyn. On the issue of political parties in Nicaragua, that is also a matter for Nicaraguans to decide. The United States government does not support or endorse any political party or fund or endorse any candidate. Former President Arnoldo Aleman was convicted by the Nicaraguan justice system of money laundering and stealing public funds from the people of Nicaragua during his administration. Political influence by any convicted criminal in a democratic system undermines citizens' confidence in that system.

William from California writes:

Paul A. Trivelli: I am a 14 year old who is very interested in becoming an ambassador. Can u tell me what are the best steps I should take to reach my goal.

Ambassador Trivelli:

William, good for you! I'm glad to hear that you're interested in a career in public service. I am a 'career' Ambassador, which means that I have been a Foreign Service Officer with the Department of State for nearly 30 years. For my first assignment, I was a Consular Officer in Mexico City. Over the years I have served in many Latin American countries. Promotion to Ambassador is a competitive, merit-based process within the Foreign Service. The Department of State assigns career Ambassadors to roughly over half of the Embassies worldwide. Other U.S. Ambassadors are 'Political Appointees,' meaning that they are appointed directly by the President of the United States, and generally only serve under the administration that appointed them.

If you are interested in joining the Foreign Service, you'll have to wait a few years, but you can start studying now. Any United States Citizen, age 21 or older can take the Foreign Service exam, which is the first step required for admission to the Foreign Service. For more information, please see the website: http:\\careers.state.gov.

Susan from Nashville, Tennessee writes:

What are you and your staff doing to help American Eric Volz who is on trail in Rivas for murder in which the evidence is clear that he did not have any role are part in the murder and they are at least 2 Nicaraguan's who have confessed to the murder?

Ambassador Trivelli:

Susan, I am very aware of the case of Eric Volz, and the Embassy has been actively engaged with Nicaraguan authorities regarding his situation. When any U.S. Citizen is arrested abroad, Consular Officers from the Embassy have access to visit the person in jail and maintain regular contact with the individual. The U.S. Citizen may designate family, friends or other persons to receive updates about their situation via a "privacy act waiver." In this case, Mr. Volz has been visited by Consular Officers but, he has not authorized the U.S. Government to release details about his detention to the general public, so I cannot talk about the specifics of the case. That said, please be assured that in all such cases involving U.S. citizens, we do everything possible to try to ensure that the matter is handled in a fair, transparent manner by judicial authorities and that the rights of the accused under local law are protected.

James from San Antonio, Texas writes:

As a current university professor and a former American Ambassador in Central America who appreciated the knowledge and advice of Paul Trivelli, I would like comments on Nicaragua as a place for American students to spend a semester. What are the opportunities for interaction with Nicaraguan students and for "on site" observation of democracy and economic development. With parents, if not our students themselves, security is a major concern. Central America as a location raises those concerns. To be blunt, is Nicaragua a safe place for students to spend a semester? Regards.

Ambassador Trivelli:

Jim, the security situation during the past election period was relatively calm and non-violent. We have not seen an upswing in violence, nor do we expect one directed toward U.S. students, tourists, residents or mission groups. That said, please do keep an eye on our website (mentioned above) for the latest Warden Messages on Nicaragua. U.S. to Nicaraguan University educational exchanges may not be as developed as in other parts of Latin America, but there are valuable opportunities here for students with mature judgment. Though we endorse no particular institution, one which has special programs for U.S. study abroad students, is Ave Maria College. You may also contact our Education USA Advisor for additional information at: EducationUSA Advisor: advise@ccnn.org.ni

Ken from New Jersey writes:

Mr. Ambassador: How do U.S. citizen small business owners look to invest in Nicaragua once they have done their initial research on product/ services/ markets? Once they are ready where is the first place they should go on the U.S. side for info?

Ambassador Trivelli:

Ken, I would recommend that you make contact directly with an organization called ProNicaragua. It is a Nicaraguan investment promotion agency, established in 2002. It operates as a not-for-profit, public-private institution whose mission is to generate economic growth and job creation in Nicaragua by attracting high-quality foreign direct investment. Their website is: http://www.pronicaragua.org/ You may also want to directly contact the Nicaraguan Ministry of Trade and Commerce at: www.mific.gob.ni

Raul from San Jose, California writes:

Mr. Ambassador: We, Nicaraguans naturalized as American citizens followed very closely the Nicaraguan election in November this year. Sometimes it seems to some of us that the Embassy involvement in the electoral process was counterproductive since, for some people in the country it reminded them of past American intervention, anything but in the interest of the Nicaraguan people. What is your assessment on this regard? And also how, we, American-Nicaraguans can get involved for good in the years to come to help our homeland overcome so many obstacles in fighting poverty and inequality?

Ambassador Trivelli:

Raul, thank you for your question. I want to make it clear that the U.S. government did not endorse, finance or support any political candidate in the recent election. What we did do was to provide technical assistance to the Supreme Electoral Council, fund domestic and international election observers, and civic groups to assist voters in applying for national ID cards (cedulas) and to support get-out-the vote activities. For more information on the support we provided, please refer to our election press release at: http://nicaragua.usembassy.gov/12_september_2006.html

As a Nicaraguan-American you can do many things to support Nicaragua. My understanding is that, though never implemented, the Nicaraguan Constitution allows for Nicaraguans living abroad to vote. Pushing for this right would be one step. Also, there are many civil society groups here working to strengthen democracy. You could consider supporting them. There are also many U.S.-based charities working in the fields of health, education, agriculture and others which you could support.

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