Nicaragua is one of the most strategically placed nations in the Latin American region in terms of resources. The state has emerged as a top-notch state and a forerunner for the nations that are categorized as developing countries. The country lends its voice in attempts to set multilateral as well as regional agendas in trade and commerce. The country has built up a strong relationship with the United States of America and they are working to attain their respective goals that aim at promoting the liberalization of trade and commerce between them.
The two countries are also attempting to negotiate various conciliations that may enhance diverse aspects of their economies. They are also trying to establish mutual clusters that work on trade as well as other relevant issues that may pertain to their interests. In a much wider perspective, Nicaragua has generated a structure that abides by the enhancement of their economy as well as embracing a democratic angle towards their social and economic reform programmes.
So far, with the help and the influence of the United States of America, the country has made substantial progress in attaining the said goals. When all is said and done, one key aspect that remains to show is that Nicaragua is still rated as one of the poorest countries (the second in the Western Hemisphere). Corruption still flourishes and most of the institutions that have been set up to check the situations are quite weak and cannot uphold their mandate.
The United States has played a significant role in shifting the balances that govern the state of Nicaragua. Quite a several crucial aspects have been addressed in a bid to get the economy as well as the lives of the citizens up and running in the right direction.
Level and focus of assistance from the United States
The decision by the American administration to reduce the levels of funding to several Latin American countries including Nicaragua has at one time, sparked controversy among the members of the American congress.
The decision to lower the aid that is accorded to Nicaragua by the United States has played a major role in swaying the economy of Nicaragua by increasing the debt on the side of the Millennium Challenge Account. This plan of action is based on the overall plan to reduce poverty as well as to enhance development in Nicaragua. The debate that raged about the MCA was that it was supposed to act as an additional source of funds for the aid that was accorded through USAID instead of replacing it.
In general, the programmes that were implemented to enhance high-quality governance as well as to capitalize on the advantages of some of the more significant trade agreements such as the CAFTA-DR were to be markedly reduced as proposed by the United States administration.
The decision by the Bush administration to support the idea of debt relief for the nation brought about plenty of debate with some people for the idea while others were against it. In a concerted effort to reduce Nicaragua’s debt and at the same time boost economic growth, the United States keeps on investing in viable projects that may help the people of Nicaragua enhance their living standards and become self-sufficient.
Development and poverty reduction
Haiti is the only other nation that ranks lower than Nicaragua in the western hemisphere and poverty in the country is quite severe as well as prevalent. For quite some time now, there has been little or no significant change in the situation facing the nation (Walker 1860, p. 377). The consensus is that the levels of improvement have been relatively higher over the period between the years1993 to 2001.
The rural population have been the hardest hit and continue to wallow in poverty. Almost three-quarters of the rural population dwell in utter poverty. The majority of these facts are contained in various reports that have been written by the World Bank. The United States of America has strived to use their economic wealth by signing a $ 175 million, five year deal with the poverty-stricken state of Nicaragua.
The contract is supposed to aid in alleviating poverty and enhance economic growth in the country. The projects are supposed to increase wages, reduce transportation costs while at the same time improving the infrastructure in rural areas. The key beneficiaries of these programmes would be the rural folk who would experience an upward trend in terms of their lifestyles and the rate of poverty.
Consolidation of democratic processes
In the 2008 United States national budget, one of the priorities of the administration in Nicaragua was to strengthen as well as consolidate democracy. The programmes that were to be implemented would prop up the reform blueprint of the various departments in the Nicaraguan administration. The whole point of these notions was to enhance the professionalism as well as the accountability and the transparency of the ruling body.
America also played a key role in promoting the rule of law which was not the norm in Nicaragua in past years. The United States also recognized the need to eradicate corruption. The US also aimed at increasing advocacy for the citizens of the country. The role of the media to render obsolete the former political practices were also addressed. America has helped sway these practices in a bid to enhance the spirit of democracy.
The improvement of respect by certain individuals for human rights has been the focus of several United States initiatives in Nicaragua. The State Department stated in a 2006 human rights report that was read out in 2007 that, as much as the civilian authorities held effectual command over the security forces there were still quite a several cases involving the abuse of human rights. This report mainly invoked the police service.
Some of the abuses of human rights that were reported involved callous prison conditions as well as corruption of the highest order among the ranks in the administration. The United States has managed to influence the change of most of the flaws that are found within the laws that govern human rights in Nicaragua. Among the major issues within the matter of human rights that have been addressed are violence against women and children. This could be either through sexual harassment in women or labour exploitation in children.
The approval of the United States and the Dominican Republic – CAFTA-DR (Central America Free Trade Agreement) in October 2005 which saw the subsequent passing of other reforms that included intellectual property in 2006, took effect as of March in 2006. This has gone a long way in enhancing the economic growth of the region. It has also helped in increasing the rate of exporting merchandise to the United States as well as creating employment.
The percentage of exports revealed a marked change in the subsequent years. The exports increased by almost more than 40 per cent. The main attribute to this activity was the beginning of the CAFTA-DR-related tax cutbacks or reductions. Nicaraguan authorities have embraced this American-generated agreement since it is beneficial to the nation.
The United States of America has greatly influenced the highly contentious matter of immigration (Walker 2003, p. 217). The House of Representatives passed a decree in December 2005 that was supposed to toughen the rules and regulations that governed immigration to the United States from nearly all Central American countries.
The bill would turn illegal presence in the United States from being considered a civil offence into a criminal offence which meant that it would attract stiffer penalties if one were to be found in the country illegally. The United States embraced the matter of immigration positively by seeking to offer quite a several eligible Nicaraguans who were residing in the United States of America – TPS – Temporary Protected Status. This status would enable around 4000 to live and work in the United States. It was regarded as a great influencing factor on Nicaraguans who may have been intending to settle in the United States.
These sorts of gestures have been a source of inspiration to many Nicaraguans who have seen the possibilities of moving to the United States to live the American dream (Gobat 2005, p. 295). Many Nicaraguans have attempted to move to the US either legally or illegally due to the options that they aim to find on the other side.
There are quite a several claims that have been made over the years concerning the Sandinista regime. It has been alleged that the regime confiscated property from several people including Americans who owned property in Nicaragua. The American administration has ensured that most of the individuals who lost their property in Nicaragua to the Sandinista regime were among the people who received compensation for their losses.
This has been a great influencing factor in ensuring that the Americans who are still interested in investing in Nicaragua are not turned off. By ensuring that the claims are paid, the US government offers a sort of guarantee that any investment that may be made in Nicaragua will not be lost as was the case in the past. However, there have been a few hitches in the process as Nicaragua has passed a decree that states that the confiscated property cases of the Sandinista regime ought to be dismissed. The decree was part of the constitutional reforms that the administration was attempting to implement.
Security, missiles and assistance by the military forces
One of the determining factors in the US- Nicaragua relations is the issue of military forces. The United States pended the military assistance that used to accord to Nicaragua in 2005. The US held the belief that an arsenal of missiles, mostly anti-aircraft missiles, could be used in a terrorist attack on them.
Once the arsenal was destroyed, the provision of military aid resumed. This was in October 2005. The Nicaraguan Sandinista leaders protested the decree that was proposed on 13 July 2006. The decree had wished for the destruction of the missiles but how it was brought up by the National Assembly did not go down well with the Sandinista regime ending up in a walkout by its members. The two countries are continually partaking in security efforts in the region. They have held quite a several conferences that address the issue of security. They have discussed several issues that pertain to threats to the stability of the region.
Although the United States of America continues to offer Nicaragua military assistance, the policy on security does not allow for all-out help to be accorded to the Latin American country. There are certain limitations to the military assistance that they receive from the US.
The State Department’s Narcotics Control Report that was released in 2007 clearly stated that one of the main transhipping points for illegal substances such as heroin as well as cocaine was Nicaragua. The report stated that the nation was placed strategically and was a shipping point for drugs that were mainly destined for the Northern American continent.
The nation has been bombarded with calls to check the movement of drugs from the producer countries in Central America. The use of the Atlantic Ocean as a transportation route to the United States via Nicaragua has made the isolated coast a target for the anti-narcotic divisions in the respective countries.
Although the traffickers appear to have shifted their operations to the Pacific Ocean, the efforts to combat drug trafficking by the concerned authorities in the whole region have remained persistent (Woodward 1999, p. 413). The government of Nicaragua has shown its commitment to fighting the drug trade and has sought to expunge its name from the murky field of the drug trade and drug-related issues.
The United States of America has influenced the government of Nicaragua to take action and clear its good name. This will benefit the country in many ways since several other countries will embrace Nicaragua as a trade viable trade partner.
It may be pertinent to note that the United States of America has played a major part in changing the balances that preside over the state of Nicaragua in more than just a few ways. The government of Nicaragua recognizes the impact of the influences that have come their way through the policies that they have been encouraged to implement by the United States administrations over the years.
Most of the policies are meant to have a positive impact on Nicaragua. The embargoes that have been put in place before in several instances are meant to keep the wayward ways of the minds that may be corrupted by allies of the former regimes. It may also be noteworthy to accept the fact that most of the policies and influences that the US has imposed on Nicaragua are hardly related and cover a wide array of issues.
As much as some of the issues that the US has addressed may appear to be selfish by some quarters, this is hardly the case. The issues address different aspects that affect all the concerned parties such as the citizens of Nicaragua as well as the United States.
- Gobat, M 2005, Confronting the American dream: Nicaragua under U.S. imperial rule, Duke University Press, Durham.
- Walker, T. W 2003, Nicaragua: Living in the shadow of the eagle, Westview Press, Boulder.
- Walker, W 1860, The war in Nicaragua, S.H. Goetzel & co., Columbia.
- Woodward, R. L 1999, Central America, a nation divided, Oxford University Press, Oxford.