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"Nicaragua increases its marginality by accepting a humiliating alignment with Moscow"

Ramón Jáuregui: Cuba and Venezuela signed the EU-CELAC resolution, agreeing on a common agenda and investments of $50 billion

Daniel Ortega, Rosario Murillo y atrás Camila Ortega

Daniel Ortega y Rosario Murillo durante el acto del 44 aniversario de la revolución sandinista. Foto: Confidencial | Tomada del 19 Digital.

Carlos F. Chamorro

25 de julio 2023


The former Spanish member of the European Parliament and president of the Euroamerica Foundation, Ramón Jáuregui, considers that "Nicaragua made a fool of itself" at the EU-CELAC summit by trying to boycott it and refusing to sign the declaration in which 59 other countries, including Cuba and Venezuela, expressed their concern about the consequences of "the war against Ukraine." The reluctance of the Ortega regime, says Jáuregui, "increases Nicaragua's marginality, not just in Europe, but in Latin America, due to its humiliating submission to Moscow's dictates."

In this interview with Esta Semana and CONFIDENCIAL, Jáuregui analyzed the scope of the summit during which Europe and Latin America agreed upon a common agenda that includes a European investment program of more than 50 billion dollars to counteract the presence of China in Latin America.

How do you assess the results of the Europe and Latin America Summit organized between the European Union and CELAC, which announced a Global Gateway European investment program of more than 50 billion dollars in Latin America?

It definitely was a very important summit meeting. First, because this kind of summit had not been held for eight years and it is well known that it's very easy to suspend summits, but it is much more difficult to resume them. Both the Government of Spain, which convened it, and the European Union's Foreign Action Service, achieved success by making it happen. The meeting was attended by the heads of state and governments, or their foreign ministers, of the 60 countries that make up the European Union and Latin America, and they were able to produce a joint declaration. They were also able to reach a series of agreements and statements of great magnitude, such as the approval of a Global Gateways agenda, an investment proposal that the European Union wants to carry out in Latin America. 

Brazil's President Lula has called the summit a success because never before has Europe shown so much political and economic interest in Latin America. But other analysts have questioned the European Union's political endorsement of the three dictatorships in the region –Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua– without condemning human rights violations.  

It is not incompatible for Europe to maintain sanctions on –and a critical position towards– the three dictatorships and the human rights violations that occur in Latin America. Our commitment to democracy in these three countries remains absolutely, shall we say, committed. But at the same time, it is not possible to hold a summit of this nature if we establish preconditions based on the existence of situations or political regimes in certain countries that are not strictly democratic, because then we would never be able to hold a summit.  

The central idea was that the European Union and Latin America need to walk a path together now that the world has become so hostile, both for Latin America and for Europe. In that sense, the summit has been successful, and at the same time, our political position against dictatorships remains the same.

Daniel Ortega Nicaragua
Ramón Jáuregui, ex eurodiputado español y presidente de la Fundación Euroamérica Foto: Confidencial | Archivo.

Ortega's alignment with Putin

The resolution was signed by 59 countries, with the exception of Nicaragua, which opposed condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, even in what has been deemed lukewarm terms. At the end of the day Nicaragua was left out of the meeting. How is the isolation of the Ortega regime seen in Europe and Latin America? 

Nicaragua played the role of boycotting the summit, and the presence of certain personalities in the Nicaraguan delegation evidenced its submission to Moscow's dictates. They played the game of trying to ensure that there would be no declaration, and the fact that Nicaragua didn't sign the declaration –because of the paragraph that has to do with Russia's aggression against Ukraine-- also evidences its marginality, even in Latin America. That is, not just Europe, but Latin America itself has marginalized Nicaragua, including Cuba and Venezuela, who did sign the document. 

Nicaragua didn't do so because they have a blind obedience to the dictates of Moscow. 

It is curious that those who for 40 years have been proclaiming national sovereignty and claiming non-interference as a fundamental principle of the international order are now shamefully contradicting themselves by denying Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which is clearly a totally aggressive military interference in the sovereignty of another country. And they are also accepting a humiliating alignment themselves because they are losing their own sovereignty by obeying Moscow's dictates. I think Nicaragua has made a fool of itself with that position. 

Is there any political cost for Ortega, for his government, for Nicaragua, from  this –in your words, humiliating-- alignment, which borders on servility with Vladimir Putin's Russia? 

The level of discredit that the Nicaraguan delegation has brought upon itself in this negotiation is quite high. I don't think it surprises anyone that Nicaragua has had this attitude, but I have been told by people directly involved in the negotiation itself, in the drafting of the declaration, that the positions dictated by Moscow in this matter were extraordinary. And this certainly does nothing for Nicaragua, which, if it was already an internationally discredited country, is now much more so as a result of this situation. 

Keep in mind that Nicaragua refused to sign a document that says "the war against Ukraine." The document doesn't talk about Russia, which isn't even mentioned. It doesn't talk about the invasion. It speaks simply of the concern that all countries feel about the war against Ukraine. And certainly this way of expressing the situation was on purpose. But even this was not accepted by Nicaragua. And this leads Nicaragua to end up in a totally marginalized place, including in Latin America. I don't know if it will have direct political consequences, but it is certainly going to underscore its weakness, its marginality, and its dependence on Moscow.

A week before this summit, diplomatic relations were reestablished at the ambassadorial level after Nicaragua had expelled the European Union ambassador from Nicaragua. Does this mean a kind of accommodation with the status quo in Nicaragua? Or could it mean the possibility of more diplomatic pressure? 

I believe that diplomatic pressure on Nicaragua has to follow two paths. On the one hand, an increase of personal sanctions against those in the regime who are responsible for all the outrages that are taking place, including the protagonists of the expropriations, ordered by the Nicaraguan government, of the 222 expelled and stateless persons, who were the leaders of the Nicaraguan opposition. The level of punishment of the persons responsible for these human rights abuses and the most flagrant violations of democratic conditions should probably be increased. 

The next phase that is pending is to know if the international community should indeed consider a package of sanctions that includes economic activity and trade relations with Nicaragua. We haven't gotten there yet, because everyone is aware that these types of sanctions also have a negative impact on the sanctioning party itself, and sometimes what they do is to provide smokescreens for the regime itself to hide its own failures. 

And allow me to make a political observation about the current Nicaraguan reality, and that is that the whole of the opposition expelled from the country must come together and form a platform. I believe that they are on that path, but it is very important that there be a voice that the international community can recognize, an organization that represents the democratic group of the region, of the country. What I mean is that this would help move the process along to get more sanctions, more pressure and more help to the opposition.

The common Europe-Latin America agenda 

You said in an essay you published before the summit that the important part begins after the summit, with the follow-up, the implementation of these agreements. Is there political leadership in Europe and Latin America to implement it?

I think there must be. That is to say, what has become clear is the need for Europe and Latin America to come together. And that implies that we should be able to contemplate our positions on the international order or on international disorder in the same way, with a joint international action between Latin America and Europe.

As Europeans and Latin Americans, we are too marginalized, too dependent on the technological, economic, and commercial polarization between China and the United States. And we need to find our own role. And at the same time, we need to rediscover our capacity for economic action in Latin America. At this summit, there has been a lot of talk about the fact that Europe does not have an extractive agenda, and that what Europe is looking for is to participate in the modernization of the productive system, in the technological and physical infrastructures of Latin America, so that Latin America is capable of improving productivity and developing investment and economic growth and job creation. 

The program we're calling the Global Gateway is the financial architecture that Europe is offering for this plan. But this plan also includes an investment program, because we have gone country by country, identifying which investments are necessary, which roads, which ports and airports, and which technological connections are necessary to provide Latin America with modern infrastructure support. And this is what constitutes the embryo of our agreement. 

There is political will. The question I ask myself is whether we will be able to go down that road. This is a port of departure for the joint navigation we have to do. And this will depend first of all on the representative structure that Latin America has of all its countries.

And here I believe that telling the truth in this case isn't offensive, because it's appropriate. CELAC is a weak structure. It does not have an organization capable of monitoring the positions of all the countries on a day-to-day basis. Europe does have that capability because Europe is united. It has an organization called the European Union which coordinates according to the will of its members.

And then, secondly, Europe must not forget Latin America either, because certainly the war in Ukraine and the problems of proximity with Russia can tempt us to direct all eyes to the west and we forget about the other side.These are the objections to the process.

This investment program, for example, or the offers of financing on major environmental issues, are they going to be carried out in a bilateral negotiation with the different countries, or will this be channeled through CELAC or through the association agreement with Mercosur, which has not even been signed? In other words, is it a bilateral negotiation or does it go through the regional organizations?

Theoretically, it is a plan that deals with all the investments, with each one being agreed to with the country who will implement it, which is really the private business sector in that country. That is to say, we have to provide conditions so that the large European companies can feel stimulated to carry out these projects in coordination with each country, and with European financing that would facilitate overall financing, because the financing margins that Latin American countries have are smaller, unfortunately. 

So the idea is that the Global Gateway would serve as an aid to this financing, that the large European companies would participate in the tenders and win them, and that they would agree with the governments, where appropriate, to carry out these works within a financial and technological framework of cooperation that benefits the country. 

That is to say, this is an alternative to the idea of "I take the copper and then I export cables to the Chileans." No, the idea is that you extract copper and water and we Chileans make the cable. And the same thing with lithium. And the same thing with other critical materials. So this is very much in the conceptualization of this proposal, but certainly the road is yet to be traveled. Nothing is done yet. What the summit did was establish a framework, and the same can be said, for example, in relation to the digital alliance. That is, Europe makes an offer of technological connection, interconnectivity, cybersecurity, regulation, etc., but all this has to be worked out with each country. 

What are the next steps? What signs might we see at the end of this year or at the beginning of next year, that these agreements are really going to initiate a dynamic that could be irreversible?

A very important meeting will take place after the European summer, in Santiago de Compostela, on September 15. This will be a meeting of Ecofin ministers, European Union ministers, ministers of Economy and Finance, with Latin American ministers. And there they will have to establish, in many cases, the way to materialize this approach. 

It is very important that Latin American countries understand that there is a proposal here, that European companies are interested. I am not going to say that these companies are the best in the world, but at least we are not the Chinese. We have the idea that we have to operate by transferring technology, training staff, establishing high level social and labor standards, as with environmental conditions, because that is what will allow the Latin American productive fabric to be at top performance to be able to export to the whole world. 

And so we believe that the qualitative advantages of the European economic presence are responding to these principles and at the same time to these intentions of goodwill and fraternity. And that this is linked to the purpose of the summit, which is to forge a strategic alliance between two partners, to play a more unified role in the world and to have more influence.

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff.


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Carlos F. Chamorro

Carlos F. Chamorro

Periodista nicaragüense, exiliado en Costa Rica. Fundador y director de Confidencial y Esta Semana. Miembro del Consejo Rector de la Fundación Gabo. Ha sido Knight Fellow en la Universidad de Stanford (1997-1998) y profesor visitante en la Maestría de Periodismo de la Universidad de Berkeley, California (1998-1999). En mayo 2009, obtuvo el Premio a la Libertad de Expresión en Iberoamérica, de Casa América Cataluña (España). En octubre de 2010 recibió el Premio Maria Moors Cabot de la Escuela de Periodismo de la Universidad de Columbia en Nueva York. En 2021 obtuvo el Premio Ortega y Gasset por su trayectoria periodística.