The executive president of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), Dante Mossi, alleged that the statements he gave to Canal 12 in July 2022 were misinterpreted, when in an act of political bias he defended the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega, saying that it was the victim of an “unfair system of sanctions” in which “due process was not respected”.
His statement was one of the key points in the debate held on the morning of March 16 at the Inter-American Dialogue with Manuel Orozco, director of the Migration, Remittances, and Development Program, and Ryan Berg, director of the Americas Program of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, moderated by CNN Economy journalist Gabriela Frías.
The request to hold a debate with Mossi arose from the CABEI’s financing of Nicaragua, equivalent to 26% of the bank’s total portfolio, in the midst of the human rights crisis provoked by the Ortega regime. The financing was pointed out by critics as a sign of “complicity with a dictatorship that represses, kills, banishes, and imprisons.”
In July last year, Mossi told journalist Marcos Medina, a Canal 12 journalist at the time, that in Nicaragua, “there is a system of sanctions that is unfair because a person is accused and tried without due process, but these are the rules of the international game. So, what CABEI is doing is looking for protection mechanisms, how to continue providing this financing, without violating international provisions”.
This decision has materialized in the fact that the Bank has approved some 3.5 billion dollars in loans for the dictatorship in the last five years, which Berg considered “crazy”, and although Mossi responded that it is financing for infrastructure projects, the director of the Americas Program reminded him that "money is fungible".
The term alludes to the fact that a bill can be replaced by another, making it easier to give it a use that was not originally intended, so there is nothing preventing a dollar that was intended to build a hospital from ending up becoming a cordoba that finances repression purchases fuel for police vehicles used to repress citizens.
Mossi responded by rejecting the idea that CABEI merely signs checks to finance Daniel Ortega's regime, insisting that there are internal processes that allow them to “know where the money goes for every inch of the road we are financing”.
I just follow orders
Questioned by the journalist and host of the debate on how he can prove that CABEI is not financing the Nicaraguan regime, Mossi responded that all countries have the right to receive loans and that the Bank has rules and regulations to determine those processes, admitting at the end that “we are providing loans to one country more than others. Sometimes that happens.”
Although the Honduran banker did (without quoting it) subscribe to the principle of due obedience, given that the highest authority of the Bank is the governors (one per country) who delegate the day-to-day management to the directors (also one per country), so he is bound by what they tell him to do.
Berg reminded him that there is a technical committee that sees things before they go to the board and that Mossi is the person who heads the committee. “You're hiding behind the idea that you're just following orders,” he shot at him.
Mossi's response was that when they present the proposed operations to the board of directors, its members have two weeks to review them because the representatives of some countries have no idea about the projects that are in progress and whether a project is approved or not is based on the criteria of these officials, recalling that “a majority vote is required for that.”
In addition, he said that the institution has independent units that measure the impact of the operations they finance, and that “when we hear complaints, we will review them. We have mechanisms that people can use to complain about what we do because the loans we process are to help people”.
Both Orozco and Berg questioned Mossi's claim that the Bank listens to the people, that there is now more transparency than under his predecessors, and that anyone can request information from the Bank. “Transparency is the Bank's ‘Achilles heel’,” said Berg.
Orozco said that he submitted a request for information in August and that sometime later he received a message saying that they might receive a response. A few months later, in November, the Bank sent another email saying “excuse me... what was the question?”
The remittance expert, of Nicaraguan origin, detailed that “they did not answer our requests for information on the use of covid vaccine loans. We know that the Ministry of Health authorities denied treatment to those injured during the April 2018 Rebellion. Does it make sense to make loans to a country where human rights are violated if even the pope compared Nicaragua to Nazi Germany?”
The banker's response was that “that's the way things work in the Bank”, and he acknowledged that they need to continue communicating their role as a bank, “so that people are informed”.
It is not for me to say whether Ortega is a dictator
Mossi was also asked a couple of times what he would do, as Bank administrator, if the democratic government that must unfailingly replace the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo were to default on the debt. The banker refrained from saying whether he considers the regime prevailing in Nicaragua to be a dictatorship or not.
In this regard, the banker turns to “the historical record” of the Bank and recalls that it was created in the 60s when some Central American (and Latin American) countries were ruled by military dictatorships.
When asked if Nicaragua is a dictatorship, he replied “it doesn't matter what I think. I’ve met Daniel Ortega and his wife. I call him president because he is. Who am I to say that he is not, when the international system says he is,” he alleged, even though Orozco reminded him that Ortega's reelection in 2021 has been declared illegitimate by the OAS, the European Union, and the United States.
The CABEI president limited himself to saying: “Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America. I empathize very much with Nicaragua's situation, as I cannot say what is a dictatorship and what is not. That is not my job. It doesn't matter what I think, but what the legal framework says, and if it says that a country can receive loans, then it can,” he added.
However, Orozco pointed out that “CABEI is subject to the Tegucigalpa protocol and the constitutive act of SICA” which establishes the obligation of governments to practice democracy and respect human rights, which the Ortega regime flagrantly violates, while Mossi remained silent.
Building on that close relationship with Ortega and Murillo, Mossi asserted that “the dialogue with Nicaragua is very honest, and we are one of the few who can talk to the government, so instead of attacking the contact we have with the country... the world condemns them, but that is more than I can do,” he defended.
Although he says he can do his job, which is “to talk to the governors and the finance ministers of each country”, Berg questioned him that “if things are legal, does that mean they are right? Is there any space in which a leader can say, I am not going to do this, for ethical and moral reasons?”.
The official's response was that “CABEI is a development bank. I am very sorry that people have suffered. In Central America, there has been a lot of suffering, and natural disasters, but our mission is to help with infrastructure projects. I feel bad for the people who have been affected”.
Finally, when asked if he felt comfortable in an entity like CABEI, which does not care about human rights, he evaded the question by saying that “many have seen CABEI as an entity to fight with, instead of shaking hands with it”.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff.