In an extraordinary move on the day before the US Senate’s Christmas recess, two Democrats sided with right-wing Republicans to introduce the so-called NICA Act, which if passed would require the US government to veto loans from international financial institutions to Nicaragua. While it is still a long way from becoming law, the bill suddenly looks like a more serious threat to that country’s social progress.
Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, long hostile to progressive governments in Latin America, originally sponsored the bill. It wasn’t surprising when it got support from other right-wingers like Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. But now Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Durbin (D-IL), who have both been prominent in challenging US support for the right-wing government in neighbouring Honduras, have put their names to the NICA Act too.
Why is it being promoted? Ever since the former guerrilla leader Daniel Ortega won election for a new term as president of Nicaragua in 2006, he’s faced renewed hostility from the United States, even though of a much softer form than was the case during the Contra war of the 1980s. His opponents focus continually on his supposed grip on power, especially after the courts overturned a constitutional ban on presidents running for second and subsequent turns of office. Their frustration intensified when his wife Rosario Murillo became his vice-president after the last national elections, even though she has been a key figure in the government from the start. Most recently, his critics focussed their attention on the arrangements for last November’s municipal elections, in which Sandinista mayors were returned in most towns and cities. It was because of the supposed bias in the electoral process that the proposed NICA Act was conceived, and which it was intended to address.