October 4, 2005

U.S. may cancel visas for Nicaragua opposition

By Carol Giacomo, Diplomatic Correspondent

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - The United States, stepping up
pressure on Sandinista and rightist opposition leaders, plans
to cancel U.S. visas for some Nicaraguan politicians that it
accuses of corruption and undermining democracy, an official

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick on Tuesday
was planning to deliver what he described as a clear message in
Managua as a crisis threatens President Enrique Bolanos, a U.S.
ally under pressure from his party dissidents and leftist
Sandinistas to accept constitutional reforms weakening his

"There will be some visa moves involving particular
officials involved with corruption and their families and
associates," a U.S. official said.

Zoellick, the State Department's No. 2 diplomat, has
accused Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega and his ally, former
right-wing president Arnoldo Aleman, of forging a "corrupt
pact" to undermine democracy in Nicaragua.

Ortega, an old adversary of Washington, was Nicaragua's
president in the 1980s during a civil war against the
U.S.-backed Contra rebels. He could win a return to power at
polls next year.

Zoellick, who spent Monday in Guatemala, told reporters on
his plane flight from Washington that in Managua: "I will be
emphasizing that the leaders who engage in corruption and their
associates will have no place with the United States."

Ortega and Aleman, who is serving a 20-year sentence for
massive corruption during his 1997-2002 term, are political
rivals who have joined forces to try to limit Bolanos' powers.

Despite his sentence, a court has given Aleman freedom to
move around the Nicaraguan capital due to health concerns.

Zoellick, U.S. officials said, is aiming in particular at
some members of Aleman's Liberal Party who may erroneously
think Washington is so opposed to Ortega's rule that it would
accept a "corrupt puppet" of Aleman.

The Bush administration sees the visas as a point of
leverage because there is a large Nicaraguan ©migr© community
in the United States and many Nicaraguans travel there to
visit, shop and attend school.

Zoellick will be in Nicaragua in an effort to bolster
Bolanos and undercut his rivals.

The conflict has at times threatened to force Bolanos from
office and the Organization of American States described it
last week as the most frustrating crisis in the Americas.

Zoellick has noted that Nicaragua is in line to receive
$175 million from the U.S. Millennium Challenge Account
program, which aims to reward countries that pursue political
and economic reforms, and said that money may not be available
if Ortega and his allies come to power.

After talks with Zoellick on Monday, Guatemala's
conservative president, Oscar Berger, condemned the political
crisis in Nicaragua, which he described as a coup attempt.