Date: Thu, 17 Oct 1996 16:46:39 -0500
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/** reg.nicaragua: 43.1 **/
U.S. meddling in Nicaraguan elections as embassy in Managua tries to soothe fears. Washington fuels flames of controversy
Nicaragua Network, Wednesday 9 October 1996
Following up to yesterday's alert concerning derisive comments made by State Department Spokesperson Nicholas Burns about Daniel Ortega, FSLN candidate for President of Nicaragua:
Burns took the remarkable step yesterday of re-affirming his comments despite the efforts of the U.S. Embassy in Managua to re-assure Nicaraguans of U.S. neutrality in the upcoming October 20 general elections. Reuters reports:
"Burns said Tuesday he stood by public remarks he made last Friday, when he said that he `would not use the word democrat to describe Daniel Ortega,' and that Washington remembered Ortega's past actions against the United States."
This report from Reuters is coupled with Burns's account of the U.S. government's request to the FSLN that it cease using a picture of Ortega in the company of U.S. Rep. Bill Richardson because it might give the impression of a connection between the U.S. government and the Sandinistas. Burns's words were: "Rich- ardson visits Nicaragua and Ortega comes up at some event, stands next to him, they film them together, and Ortega says `I'm a friend of the United States.'"
Burns's initial statement, his confirmation of it, and this trite reasoning for a protest to a foreign political party during peak campaigning season add up to create the impression that U.S. policymakers, alarmed by Ortega's surge in polls against the right-wing candidate Arnoldo Aleman, have decided they can no longer safely proclaim their neutrality. A classic case of mixed signals ensues, with the embassy maintaining the earlier, offi- cial line and thus providing, perhaps inadvertently, ample "cover" for spokespeople in Washington to hint at the genuine U.S. position.
The Nicaraguan election is now just ten days away. The closeness of the race and the presence of numerous candidates with smaller levels of support all but guarantees that neither Ortega nor Aleman will garner 45% of the vote on October 20th and the election will go to a second round run-off between the two highest vote-getters. The Nicaragua Network is concerned that Burns's statements will frighten first-round voters into thinking that the U.S. will marshal its powers to oppose a Sandinista government. It is also concerned what this strategy of mixed messages portends for U.S. attempts, whether overt or covert, to influence the run-off between Ortega and Aleman.
The urgency of your response to this alert is even greater today than it was yesterday. U.S. citizens have a responsibility to do what they can to prevent their government from trying to determine the outcome of a sovereign democracy's elections. So we re-iterate our request in yesterday's alert:
Call the State Department at any of the following numbers:
Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs Jeffrey Davidow: (202) 647-5780
Public Information Office where you can leave your comments: (202) 647-6575.
Tell the State Department that the comments of Nicholas Burns have been interpreted as support for candidate Arnoldo Aleman in Nicaragua and violate the previous policy of neutrality in the Nicaraguan elections. He, or a higher ranking US official, should clarify his statement at another briefing as soon as possible, reiterating the willingness on the part of the U.S. to maintain cordial relations with whichever candidate wins on up-coming Nicaraguan elections.
For more information, contact: Katherine Hoyt, Nicaragua Network, 1247 E St. SE, Washington, DC 20003, Tel. (202) 544-9355, e-mail: email@example.com