Friday, November 4, 2011

Washington Post: Why Nicaragua matters to the United States

Opinions

Why Nicaragua matters to the United States

By Robert J. Callahan, Published: November 3

On Sunday, Nicaraguans will go to the polls to vote for president. If the surveys are to be believed, they will choose the incumbent, Daniel Ortega. Despite a constitutional prohibition against serving consecutive terms, he is the candidate of the Sandinista Party and the beneficiary of a ludicrous decision by his country’s highest court that ruled the prohibition was a violation of Ortega’s human rights and, at least on this count, the Constitution was unconstitutional.

Ortega is flush with money from another anti-American political boss, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, and he faces a fragmented and poorly funded opposition. He has also manipulated the voter rolls, enjoyed a near-monopoly on media advertising, spent lavishly on small gifts to potential voters, and put off until late August inviting international observers, ensuring that their presence is more cosmetic than productive.
But why care? Nicaragua is, after Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Its gross domestic product of $6.5 billion is less than ExxonMobil’s quarterly profits. Militarily weak and with a history of chaotic politics, the country is of scant economic or geopolitical importance to the United States, or to anyone else. It threatens no one.
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