U.S. Restores Some Nicaraguan Aid Over Helms’ Objections
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Bush administration is restoring some aid to Nicaragua after a six- month suspension because of concern that the country’s growing financial difficulties threaten economic stability.
In announcing the restoration of $54 million in assistance, the State Department defied the wishes of Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., who has had a running feud with the administration over Nicaraguan policy for more than a year.
At Helms’ request, the administration suspended $104 million in aid to Nicaragua in June.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Thursday that Nicaragua needs the $54 million to sustain its economic-recovery program and to preserve gains made in controlling inflation.
He said the funds also will enable Nicaragua to stay on good terms with international lending institutions.
Boucher acknowledged that the administration continues to be concerned about developments in Nicaragua on several issues.
″Nicaragua will not be able to promote economic growth or attract foreign investment unless the rule of law and civilian authority over the security forces are firmly established and property rights and human rights are firmly protected,″ he said.
Of particular concern have been continued influence by the leftist Sandinista Front in the government and the murders of former members of the Nicaraguan Contras. A Helms aide said the death toll as of September was 217.
Helms was displeased with the administration’s move Thursday and planned to seek legislation to prevent the remaining $50 million from being disbursed, the aide said.
In a statement, Helms said President Bush ″has been tragically misled on this one by his advisors - who should know better than to send another $54 million of the American taxpayers’ money to the brutal and corrupt government of Nicaragua.″
He said the Nicaraguan government refuses to return properties taken from more than 500 U.S. citizens and ″continues to use murder and intimidation to implement its unwise policies.″
The State Department said the unresolved cases involve 919 properties belonging to 314 U.S. citizens. The properties are valued at $367 million.
Nicaraguan Ambassador Ernesto Palazio said the conflict over property rights was nearing a solution. He said it would have been ″extremely difficult″ for Nicaragua to meet its repayment obligations to international lending institutions if the administration had continued to withhold the aid money.
Helms was a stalwart backer of the Contras in the 1980s and has said the administration has been too indulgent with President Violeta Chamorro, who defeated Sandinista President Daniel Ortega in 1990.
Chamorro has extended the hand of friendship to the Sandinistas because, to do otherwise, she has said, would only prolong the divisions that have crippled Nicaragua for decades.