Nicaragua's progress - or lack of it

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Thursday, December 30, 2010; 8:20 PM

Regarding the Dec. 26 editorial "Soft on Nicaragua":

The portrayal of the dispute with Costa Rica that arose after Nicaragua undertook a cleaning operation of the San Juan River as an invasion of a neighbor was inaccurate. Nicaragua's sovereignty over the San Juan River is clearly recognized in the relevant treaties and the International Court of Justice's ruling of July 13, 2009. The border with Costa Rica begins on the southern bank of the river. Sovereign right carries with it the responsibility to safeguard, protect and maintain orderly and fluent navigation along the course of the river, which is exactly what Nicaragua has been doing.

To describe the presence of Nicaragua security forces on an island in the San Juan River as an invasion of Costa Rican territory is baseless and absurd, for Costa Rica has no territory in the San Juan River.

Likewise, Nicaragua, from the outset, has stated its openness to bilateral discussions with Costa Rican counterparts to address any concern they may have about the Nicaragua operation in and along the river, including our efforts against drug trafficking and organized crime. This offer still stands, even though the dispute is now before the International Court of Justice where it should have been taken in the first place, rather than the Organization of American States, which has no mandate to deal with territorial disputes between states.

Nicaragua has full confidence in the International Court of Justice and has always respected its rulings. Our response to whatever decision the court may take on the dispute with Costa Rica will not be an exception.

Francisco Campbell, Washington

The writer is Nicaragua's ambassador to the United States.

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"Soft on Nicaragua" requires clarification. The Dec. 26 editorial stated that the U.S. government's Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC) has "deemed Nicaragua as a candidate for a new compact, according to criteria that include 'rule of law' and 'political rights.' " However, by law, "candidate" countries for MCC aid are below a certain per capita income and are not statutorily prohibited from receiving U.S. assistance - this includes Nicaragua. But when selecting which of these countries will receive assistance, the MCC board of directors rigorously assesses countries' policy performance using objective, third-party indicators.

As the editorial noted, the MCC board has not selected Nicaragua for a new compact. The board terminated $61.5 million from MCC's earlier $175 million compact with the country in June 2009 because of actions taken by Nicaragua's government that were inconsistent with MCC's eligibility criteria.

Since that decision, no new funding has been initiated, and MCC continues to press the Nicaraguan government to take actions that demonstrate its commitment to political freedom, civil liberties and the rule of law. Unfortunately, the government of Nicaragua has not taken meaningful steps to implement these reforms. This failure to respond to calls for reform will be a significant factor in determining Nicaragua's eligibility for a future compact.

MCC believes that policies matter, and our exhaustive selection process is designed to choose country partners committed to good governance, economic freedom and investing in their own people.

Daniel Yohannes, Washington

The writer is chief executive of the Millennium Challenge Corp.


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