Oppenheimer: Why does the IMF withdraw funds from Afghanistan, but approve aid for Ortega?

While the dictator praises the Taliban, the IMF withdraws the financial aid from the Afghan regime that it did grant Ortega

9 de septiembre 2021


Nicaragua is not Venezuela or Afghanistan, but Miami Herald columnist Andrés Oppenheimer managed to compare us with both nations: with the South American one, for the levels of state repression against citizens, which left more deaths here, whether measured in relative or absolute terms. And with the asian one, to show the different yardsticks with which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) measures some nations.

Since the outbreak of the April Rebellion, the emergence of political conflicts or natural disasters - from the mass protests in Colombia or Chile, to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the earthquake in Haiti and the protests in Cuba - has served to distract the attention of the international community, with the covid-19 pandemic as a common global denominator.

In that period, the world has had many reasons to forget the “massive abuses” of Daniel Ortega, “against the human rights” of Nicaraguans. “According to Human Rights Watch, more than 300 Nicaraguans were killed and 2,000 injured by police and paramilitary thugs in anti-government protests in 2018,” the journalist details.

In comparison, he points out that the repression dictated by the regime of Nicolas Maduro, killed less than half that number, highlighting the population difference: 32 million in Venezuela; 6.3 million in Nicaragua, so the ratio is magnified by a factor of more than five.

“And while Venezuela's dictator, Nicolas Maduro, has allowed some opposition leaders to remain out of jail, to maintain a facade of political openness, Nicaragua's Ortega, in recent months, has outlawed all major opposition parties and imprisoned the country's seven main presidential contenders,” charging them with false charges of treason, or money laundering, among others.

Daniel Ortega continues to receive money

In that context, he recalled that on August 23, the regime announced that it had received a $353.5 million financial assistance package from the International Monetary Fund, and that “that and other loans from regional organizations will help Nicaragua increase its foreign reserves to an all-time high of more than $3.6 billion, the government said.” 

In reviewing the international community's options for dealing with Ortega, the commentator notes that “the Organization of American States should suspend Nicaragua under the Inter-American Democratic Charter... That would have a big impact, because it is a small country that relies heavily on international aid.”

Throughout the first semester, Daniel Ortega's Administration received almost 9.2 billion córdobas with the assumption that they would be used to fight covid-19, help victims of hurricanes Eta and Iota, as well as road construction and school repairs, among others, without countries and multilateral organizations - borrowers or donors - taking note of the situation of insecurity in which citizens live, due to state repression.

“Secondly, the IMF should stop giving money to the Ortega dictatorship. The recent disbursement under the IMF's special stand-by package to help countries combat the recession caused by the pandemic goes directly to the Central Bank of Nicaragua. That means the Ortega regime can use it for whatever it wants.”

“The IMF can deny such disbursements to countries that are serious human rights violators when a majority of its member countries decide not to recognize a country's government, sources close to the financial institution told me. The IMMF recently denied such funds to Afghanistan after the Taliban took power and had done so before with Venezuela's dictatorship. Why did Nicaragua get a pass?” the columnist wonders. 

Defining more ethical criteria

Indeed, on August 18, 2021, International Monetary Fund spokesman Gerry Rice said that “as is always the case, the IMF is guided by the views of the international community. Currently, there is a lack of clarity within the international community regarding the recognition of a government in Afghanistan, as a result of which the country cannot access Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) or other resources” from the Fund. 

In this regard, the political scientist and ​​professor of the University of Costa Rica (UCR), Alberto Cortés, explained that “in the case… of the IMF, it is clear that there is no criterion in which the issue of democratic governance or social crisis have weight or play a role in defining what project is approved or not, when granting financing to a country in a situation like the one Nicaragua is going through, with a clearly authoritarian government, which violates its own rule of law”. 

“This is one of the issues that multilateral banks must review in the future, to move towards the approval of a series of principles, in which the issue of human rights should be included as part of the analysis made when approving programs, projects, or donations,” he added. 

Finally, Andrés Oppenheimer believes that “the United States and other countries could include sanctioned Nicaraguan officials on the so-called No Fly List. A U.S. Treasury Department database of suspected terrorists who are not allowed to board flights to or over the country. Other countries could do the same.”

“It is up to all democracies to end the Nicaraguan tyrant’s streak of good fortune”, the journalist concludes. 

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

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Iván Olivares

Periodista nicaragüense, exiliado en Costa Rica. Durante más de veinte años se ha desempeñado en CONFIDENCIAL como periodista de Economía. Antes trabajó en el semanario La Crónica, el diario La Prensa y El Nuevo Diario. Además, ha publicado en el Diario de Hoy, de El Salvador. Ha ganado en dos ocasiones el Premio a la Excelencia en Periodismo Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal, en Nicaragua.


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