Nicaraguan leader seeks church support over IMF on anti-poverty action

By staff writers
December 18, 2006

Nicaraguan President-elect Daniel Ortega has announced that he will this week call on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to relax its stringent policy towards Nicaragua in order to be able to tackle endemic poverty and hunger

The Sandinista leader, who will return to power in January 2007 after sixteen years out of office, hopes he can count upon support from the churches, non-government organisations and international solidarity networks as his centre-left administration tries to reverse years of decline which have left the Central American country among the most impoverished in the world.

Already, a former conservative Catholic Cardinal has made a strong public plea to make anti-poverty action a top priority.

Ortega, whose FSLN was a romantic cause celebre for the political left in the 1980s, lost the Nicaraguan election in 1990, after concerted US-backed attempts to destabilise the radical social experiment that followed years of Somoza dictatorship – which was ended by the Sandinista revolution in 1979.

Now, however, the former commandante has returned to power on a wave of renewed support, and he says that that he will try to work with private companies and foreign investors to rebuild the country.

Daniel Ortega is to meet with an IMF top level mission on Tuesday 19 December 2006, gathering in the Nicaraguan capital, Managua.

He said this week that maintaining macroeconomic balance and ending the dire poverty that affects 80 percent the population were the inter-dependent conditions for effectively renewing the IMF accord.

The IMF mission will be led by Western Division Manager Anoop Singh, IMF representative in Nicaragua, Humberto Arbulu, told reporters last week.

Among IMF demands are the freezing the Social Security Law the National Assembly approved May 2005, to be enforced when Ortega assumes office on 10 January 2007.

The president-elect says that abandoning such programmes means abandoning the neediest. He has also called on business leaders to back urgently needed social programmes.

The incoming Sandinista president has already received backing from unexpected sources. The now-retired Cardinal Obando y Bravo, who was a critic of the FSLN and the radical ‘popular church’ in the 1980s, recently spoke at a Mass to celebrate Ortega’s 61st birthday.

The 80-year-old retired archbishop of Managua mentioned in his homily what he considers one of the greatest injustices in the contemporary world: “It is relatively a few who possess much and many who possess almost nothing. It is injustice resulting from the poor distribution of goods and services destined originally for all.”

He continued: “Human rights are violated not only by terrorism, repression and murders but also by the existence of conditions of extreme poverty and of unjust economic structures that cause great inequalities.”

US Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon has also met with Daniel Ortega, and the US is now talking of an "important" new dialogue between the former bitter enemies.

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